The question of if and when to get your child immunized against the human papillomavirus (HPV) is no longer reserved for mothers of girls.
According to the new 2012 vaccine guidelines, just released today, 11 and 12-year-old boys should be vaccinated against HPV. For boys over 12, catch-up vaccines are recommended until the age of 21.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted virus. Most notoriously, it's the main cause of cervical cancer. About 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer every year, almost all because of HPV. But HPV affects both men and women, causing anal, mouth and throat, penile, vaginal, and other cancers. It's also the culprit in genital warts, found in about 1 in 100 sexually active adults in the United States. New HPV shot guidelines for boys released today
The HPV vaccine Gardasil, while always available to boys, was initially only recommended to girls in 2006. Recommending the HPV vaccine to boys is hoped to further reduce the risk of transmission through sex. The vaccine can be given to children as young as nine and as old as 26, but is apparently more effective if administered before sexual activity begins. The vaccine requires three shots over six months.
As with many recommended vaccines, parents remain skeptical as to the necessity and the long-term safety of the HPV vaccine. The connection between HPV and teenage sex only further serves to stigmatize the vaccine.
I recently admitted to being unsure, even taken aback, when our pediatrician recommended the HPV vaccine to my nine-year-old daughter. Before then I had read little about it. I'm not in such denial that I don't believe my child will one day be sexually active. Nor am I ignoring the fact that HPV is a serious disease worth preventing. I just wasn't prepared for the hard sell for a relatively new vaccination.
That this vaccine is being recommended to boys as well as girls seems like a positive move. Any acknowledgment that it takes two to tango is a good and fair acknowledgment in my book and could help to dispel the stigma involved. Accountability has no gender.
Will you get your boys and girls immunized against HPV?
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