COMMENTARY

Should the HPV Vaccine Be Recommended for Boys and Young Men?

Paul A. Offit, MD

Disclosures

March 18, 2011

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Hi. My name is Paul Offit, and I'm talking to you today from the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. What I thought we could talk about is something that's going to be coming up soon at the June Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting at the Centers for Disease Control, which is whether to make the HPV, or human papillomavirus vaccine a routine recommendation for boys and young men. We'll see what happens, but there are certainly a few reasons that one could do that.

Let's go back to the beginning though. The first HPV vaccine, which contained types 6, 11, 16, and 18, was licensed in the United States in June 2006. Another vaccine was licensed 2 years later that contained types 16 and 18. Now, 16 and 18 prevent cervical cancer in girls and prevent about 70% of those strains that do cause cervical cancer. Types 6 and 11 would prevent about 90% of the strains that cause anal and genital warts.

So we'll see what comes up in this June meeting, but I would argue that there are 3 reasons for why this vaccine should be routinely recommended for boys and young men. One is that boys and young men get anal and genital warts, and there are hundreds of thousands of cases every year of those warts. Although they aren't fatal, they certainly are emotionally crippling and disfiguring. The second reason is that boys and young men get anal and genital cancers. There are several thousand cancers every year, both anal and genital cancers, as well as head and neck cancers that could be prevented by an HPV vaccine. The third reason is that girls get HPV from boys, so at the very least, there's social responsibility to protect girls from getting that disease, which is really the reason that we recommend the rubella vaccine (ie, the German measles vaccine) for boys as well. So we'll see. June of this year, 2011, will tell all. But I think these are certainly very compelling reasons to make the HPV vaccine a routine recommendation for boys and young men. Thank you.

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