A CDC panel has voted that boys ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated for HPV, a controversial vote. Image: Flickr / europedistrict / CC-BY

Human papilloma virus is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. and has been connected to several cancers. An effective vaccine is available, and now the CDC is recommending that 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls both get the vaccine.

New vaccine recommendations

A federal advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control presented a paper that had been published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper presented information that compared the rates of anal cancer in men and cervical cancer in women with HPV infection rates. The experts on the panel all voted that the HPV vaccination Gardasil should be recommended for all boys between the age of 11 and 12, and catch-up vaccination up to the age of 21. The vote was unanimous.

Preventing a variety of cancers

Gardasil has, in testing, been shown to reduce the incidence of cervical, anal, genital and respiratory cancer predicated by HPV infection by 75 to 95 percent. There has been significant controversy about the vaccination since it was first introduced, despite the ability to prevent some cancers. Some studies have also linked HPV infection to an increased risk of heart attack and strokes. There are two vaccines for the HPV virus, but only one has been tested for and approved for men.

Controversy over vaccination

Vaccinating young adolescents for a sexually transmitted disease has not come without controversy. Vaccination rates for girls have been consistently low. Between 75 and 90 percent of individuals will contract HPV at some point in their lives, thought most are asymptomatic. Despite this, many parents are choosing to not vaccinate their daughters for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from distrust of vaccines to not wanting to discuss sexual activity with children that young. Generally, the vaccine is most effective when it is given before the onset of sexual activity.


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