Boys should get HPV vaccine too, panel says

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(AP, ABC7) - The controversial HPV shot given to girls should also be given to boys, in part to help prevent the spread of the virus through sex, a government medical panel said Tuesday.

(Photo: Associated Press)

The expensive vaccine, which protects females against cervical cancer, hasn't been popular. And doctors admit it will be a tough sell to parents of 11- and 12-year-old males, too.

For males, the vaccine is licensed to prevent genital warts and anal cancer. Experts say another key benefit of routinely vaccinating boys could be preventing the spread of the human papilloma virus to others through sex - making up somewhat for the disappointing vaccination rate in girls.

David Smith's 11-year old will not be getting the vaccine. Smith thinks pharmaceutical profits trump safety and research.

“We as a people are culturally diverse, so unless you test every diverse culture's reaction to a vaccine, you can't have a uniform edict, if you will, that all should be vaccinated,” Smith said.

Jenn Daughtry is encouraging her 9- and 11-year old sons to remain abstinent, “so it (the vaccine) is not something I'm going to pursue,” she said. “But if you believe your children are going to be sexually active, I can see going either way."

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made the recommendation Tuesday. Federal health officials usually adopt what the panel says and asks doctors and patients to follow the advice.

“I think it's very important that we promote the vaccine and promote it for what it's really doing: preventing cancer,” said Dr. Lawrence D’Angelo, chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at the Children's National Medical Center.

The vaccine has been available to boys for two years but Tuesday's vote was the first to strongly recommend routine vaccination. Officials acknowledged the disappointing rate in girls encouraged them to take a new, hard look.

Just 49 percent of adolescent girls have gotten at least the first of the recommended three HPV shots, which have been recommended for girls for five years. Only a third had gotten all three doses by last year.

"Pretty terrible," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administrator who oversees the agency's immunization programs.

She attributed the low rates for girls to confusion or misunderstanding by parents that they can wait until their daughter becomes sexually active. It works best if the shots are given before a girl begins having sex.

A number of parents told ABC7 they would consider the vaccine after their own thoughtful research and a conversation with their pediatrician.

The vaccine is approved for use in boys and girls ages 9 to 26; but it is usually given to 11- and 12-year olds when they are scheduled to get other vaccines.

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