Despite lackluster acceptance among girls for a vaccine to prevent cancer-causing sexually transmitted viruses, the American Academy of Pediatrics is fully recommending that boys get the shots as well.
Boys 11 and 12 should be immunized routinely, with three doses of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), the AAP said Monday in its online issue of Pediatrics. This formally updates the academy’s previous policy of “permissive recommendation” for vaccination of males.
The AAP has recommended since 2007 that girls ages 11 and 12 receive the HPV vaccine.
The new policy should end any resistance among health insurers to covering HPV vaccines for boys. Each HPV shot cost about $130 in July; three shots are needed for the vaccine to be fully effective.
Merck & Co.’s Gardasil is the only approved HPV vaccine for males; both Gardasil and Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, are approved for females.
The HPV vaccine exploded into a presidential political issue last year when Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race.
In 2007, when the first HPV vaccine was approved for girls ages 11 and 12, Mr. Perry issued an executive order mandating it for Texas girls. An outcry ensued over the usurping of parental rights and the idea that the vaccine gave tacit permission for children and teens to engage in premarital sex.
The Texas Legislature quickly overturned the order, and as a presidential candidate, Mr. Perry called it “a mistake” he regretted because he didn’t discuss it “with the people of the state of Texas.”
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota also hit a buzz saw of controversy when she said that the HPV vaccine “can have very serious side effects,” and that a mother had told her that her daughter had become mentally damaged after receiving the HPV vaccine.
The AAP quickly said there was “absolutely no scientific validity” to the claim that the vaccine “is dangerous and can cause mental retardation.”
As for safety, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program says that as of early February, a total of nine claims have been filed for HPV-vaccine-related deaths and 163 claims filed for injuries. So far, 25 claims have been compensated and 33 have been dismissed, the federal program said.
Some 40 million HPV vaccine doses have been administered to girls in the past five years, and “no discernible, vaccine-specific adverse effect, with the exception of rare anaphylaxis to vaccine components, has been detected,” the AAP said in its new policy. Anaphylaxis refers to an allergic reaction with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, nausea and rashes.
HPV is the nation’s most commonly transmitted sexual infection. While there are dozens of HPV strains that resolve themselves without ill effects, a handful of HPV strains cause cancer. HPV 16 and 18, for instance, cause 15,000 cancer cases in women and 7,000 cases of cancer in males every year, the AAP said.
HPV vaccines are given at a young age because they only work against HPV strains before they are acquired, and most sixth-graders have not yet engaged in any sexual activity.
Research finds the vaccines are highly effective in preventing HPV-related precancerous conditions in men and women. Studies are still needed to see how the vaccines work against the growing problem of HPV-caused head and neck cancers.View Entire Story
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Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor. Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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