Good news for parents: the HPV vaccine is now recommended for boys as well as girls.
The new vaccine schedule released on Thursday goes beyond the tepid language of past schedules and makes the HPV vaccine a “recommended” vaccine for boys ages 11 to 12, and a catch-up vaccine for boys ages 13 to 21.
This is good news if you have a son, since the vaccine protects against genital warts and the cancer-causing virus repsonsible for many oral and anal cancers. It’s good news if you have a daughter, because protecting both boys and girls against the virus means your daughter’s eventual boyfriend is less likely to have HPV and therefore less likely to pass it to her.
The HPV vaccine has been recommended for girls and young women since 2006. Since then, evidence has piled up that it’s extremely effective at preventing the most common strains of HPV that cause some cancers, especially cervical cancer. Increasingly, evidence shows that HPV is also a culprit in many oral cancers, and that these too can be prevented through vaccination.
The NYT writes:
The new recommendation comes on the heels of a report last week showing that roughly 1 in 15 Americans are infected with oral HPV, and that the disease is especially common among men. HPV is typically found in the genital area, affecting up to 80 percent of men and women at some point in their lives, but can be transmitted to the mouth area by intimate contact, including oral sex.
Whether you have a child in the right age range to get this vaccine or not, you’re probably very aware of it. That’s because it has been the topic of a lot of controversy amongst right-wing politicians who would rather see kids die of a totally preventable disease than make sex a little safer.
I guess they think a fear of HPV is stopping teenagers from having sex. These are clearly politicians who have never been or met a teenager. Since safer sex practices like using condoms only offer some protection against HPV, it’s especially important that kids (and sexually active adults) be vaccinated against it.
It’s a very common disease, and can be hard to detect. Most people have no symptoms, and there’s currently no reliable test for HPV in men.
I’m so relieved to see this important vaccine finally being recommended for boys as well as girls. It’s my hope that widespread vaccination of kids regardless of gender will lead to my kids’ generation viewing HPV the way I see polio: a disease that used to wreak havoc but no longer affects people.