August 12, 2011
Since February 2010, North Carolina has covered Gardasil human papillomavirus vaccine for boys through Medicaid. In males ages nine to 26, Gardasil is approved to protect against genital warts, anal cancer, and associated precancerous lesions caused by vaccine-targeted HPV types.
However, some physicians are vaccinating boys in a strategy to prevent HPV infection and disease in females. While Gardasil is not among the shots listed for routine administration for boys, private insurance coverage for the series has increased in the past year, said Dr. Sameena Evers of Dilworth Pediatrics in Charlotte.
Evers said she encourages boys to get the vaccine "so that girls don't get [HPV]." "It's no surprise that women are getting it from the men," she said.
At Dilworth Pediatrics last year in June, 19 boys and 17 girls were vaccinated against HPV. That has increased to 47 boys and 11 girls for June this year. The N.C. Immunization Registry last year found 13 percent of 388 boys surveyed had received the vaccine, compared with 39 percent of girls.
Parents are motivated by protecting their boys against genital warts and cancer, with protecting future partners a secondary concern, Evers said. In a recent University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill study, men were more willing to be vaccinated if the shots were described as preventing cancer, not just genital warts.
Dr. Preeti Matkins, medical director of Teen Health Connection in Charlotte, also encourages Gardasil for males, including her son who was age 14 at the time. "I don't want you to get cancer or warts in your genital area," Matkins told her children when they objected.
"Religion is often used as reason for non-vaccinators," Matkins said, but "teens in Charlotte are having sex." In the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey, half of Mecklenburg County high school students reported they had had sex.