This week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all boys 11 and 12 years old should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) and that boys ages 13 to 21 receive “catch up” vaccinations if they haven’t already been vaccinated. This follows an action last fall when an advisory committee with the CDC recommended that 11- and 12-year-old boys receive a routine vaccine.
Health authorities are recommending that all boys be routinely vaccinated against HPV, which is widely linked to cervical cancer and genital warts. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. About 20 million Americans are currently infected.
It’s well known that HPV spreads through genital contact, increasing the risk of genital warts and several cancers, including those of the cervix, penis, and anus. The virus can also be transmitted through oral sex, the type of transmission that’s linked to oral cancers.
As Consumer Reports Medical Advisor Orly Avitzur, M.D., points out, the idea of vaccinating children against something transmitted through sexual contact is controversial. "But it’s the best weapon we have at this time against HPV-related cancers," she writes in a column this month. "And clinical trials have found that the vaccine is generally well tolerated and at least as safe as other routinely recommended vaccines."
For more about what you can do, as well as additional information about HPV, read How can you get HPV?
Cancer prevention for girls and boys: the HPV vaccine
Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule: United States, 2012 [Annals of Internal Medicine]
New Vaccine Recommendations for Boys and Diabetics [The New York Times]