October 26, 2011
All children ages 11-12, boys as well as girls, should routinely be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended Tuesday. CDC has recommended routine vaccination of girls for five years. Two years ago, ACIP issued a "permissive recommendation" on the shots for boys. Tuesday's announcement upgrades this to "routine" -- its highest recommendation.
Vaccinating boys will protect both them and their sexual partners from HPV-related cancer, doctors with CDC say. Although best known for causing cervical cancer, HPV also causes cancers of the anus, penis, back of the throat, vagina, and vulva, as well as genital warts. A study this week suggests HPV also is linked to heart disease in women.
"We are clearly seeing an epidemic of HPV-related head and neck cancers," said Robert Haddad, chief of head and neck oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Vaccinating boys is especially important given the low uptake of the shots among girls, just 44 percent received their first dose of the three-injection series, a recent CDC study found. Just 1.5 percent of boys have been vaccinated, said Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Vaccinating boys will indirectly protect their future girlfriends or wives from cancer, Schuchat said.
"Today is another milestone in the nation's battle against cancer," said Schuchat. CDC, which typically adopts ACIP's recommendations, is likely to formally approve adding HPV shots to the routine childhood immunization schedule within a couple of months, she said. Though many insurance plans already cover HPV shots for both boys and girls, a CDC recommendation will encourage others to pay for them as well, said Schuchat.