HPV Vaccination and Boys | Health Eagle

HPV Vaccination and Boys

by Tom Seman MD FAAP July 17th, 2012 | Pediatrician on Call
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Can you tell me a bit more about the HPV vaccine? I understand that it would be necessary for girls, but should my 16 year-old son get the shot as well?

Well, this is a very common question that has come up since the recommendation was made a few years ago. Let’s go back a minute and understand what we are talking about. Approximately 20 million people in the United States have genital warts, and approximately 6 million are newly infected each year. In one’s lifetime there is a50% chance that a man or women will have been infected.

These are viruses that cause warts known in the medical world as papillomas. These viruses can cause the normal cells that they infect to become abnormal. These, in turn, can then go on to become cancers. Originally, the vaccine was targeting girls to prevent cervical and some rarer genital cancers. These particular cancers were shown to be associated with having the infection. When the vaccine was first approved, the American Academy of Pediatrics asked the question: ” Where do most of the girls get their cervcal warts?” The answer, of course, is that they get the virus from males who are infected.

Infected males can get genital/penile warts. Transmission of the wart virus can occur before the warts are even visible. Therefore, with the warts not always visible, the risk of transmission, especially with unprotected and other high risk behaviors is high.  Furthermore, everyone that is infected can transmit these warts to the throat, genitalia, and anus. This can occur most often when there is vaginal sex, but it can also occur when there is anal and oral sex. It is even possible when there is contact between genitals without intercourse.The number of cases of genital and anal cancers in the United States are in the thousands per year. Often there are no warning signs or symptoms until they are in more advanced stages. Prevention is therefore most important.

There are 2 vaccines to treat HPV-Human Papilloma Virus licensed in the US. Both have similar efficacies. The recommendation is that the child receive it between 11-22 years old. The vaccine requires multiple injections, separated by several months, to be most effective. These vaccines are best if given at least 3 years before being sexually active, but anytime is good.

Of course there are some common side effects of the vaccine – mostly pain and redness at the injection site as well as the occassional low grade fever the following day. There is small portion of recipients who faint immediately upon receiving the vaccine. There are other much rarer vaccine reated reactions. For full details visit the Center for Disease Control website at WWW.CDC.GOV, and follow the site for information on HPV.


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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.