The Controversial HPV Vaccine May Be Approved for Boys, Too

By Eliza Strickland | September 10, 2009 3:26 pm

vaccinationOver the past four years, a controversy has erupted over whether to routinely give girls the new vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Now we can have the debate all over again–but this time, with boys. An advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration has recommended that the vaccine be made available for boys as well. While boys are obviously not at risk for cervical cancer, HPV can give them genital warts and, in very rare cases, can lead to anal or penile cancer.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck makes the first HPV vaccine available in the United States, Gardasil, which is considered most effective when given to young people who aren’t yet sexually active and therefore haven’t yet encountered the virus. But analyst Tim Anderson says that the regime of three shots over six months may deter some customers. “You are asking a healthy teen to come to the doctor three times in six months,” Mr. Anderson said…. “Pretty much no healthy teen would ever do that, let alone to come back and get a shot” [The New York Times]. It may be a particularly hard sell because most cases of genital warts clear up naturally, and because anal and penile cancers are so rare–each year they’re diagnosed in about 2,100 and 1,300 American men respectively.

Related Content:DISCOVER: How We Got the Controversial HPV Vaccine
DISCOVER: The Battle Over the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Heats Up
80beats: Male Circumcision Cuts Risk of HIV, Herpes, and HPV Transmission
80beats: Nobel Prize for Medicine Awarded to Virus Hunters

Image: flickr / lu_lu

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Jon

    As a public-health student, I have a slightly different view on this. What about the rate of transmission from males to females? If want to really stop cervical cancer in women, and stop HPV in its tracks, we need to stop it from spreading. This is similar to the Malaria crisis. Malaria lives in humans or mosquitoes. Because we can’t stop the mosquitoes from carrying the disease, they continue to infect humans. That is one of the main reasons we haven’t had a lot of success combating malaria, as we have with smallpox. I think it is important to immunize both males and females to really affect the endemic.

  • Rosemary Mathis

    My 13 year old daughter was injured by Gardasil and completely disabled for the past year. Merck got it right when they used the slogan “One Less” for Gardasil. Because of Gardasil, my daughter was “One Less”. She was “One Less Student”, “One Less Active Child”, “One Less in every aspect of her life”. Take it from a mother who has spent the past year sitting by my child’s bedside wondering if she would die in her sleep. INVESTIGATE BEFORE YOU VACCINATE. DO NOT trust your doctor to make this decision. If you want to understand Merck’s role in the medical community, investigate some of their former wonderdrugs such as VIOXX and then marvel at how many people died from it before it was pulled off the market. The CDC AND FDA need to do their job and get this off the market before more children are harmed. The public is not aware of VAERS and the #’s are grossly understated. I have had to tell my child’s doctors about VAERS and make them file reports or she would not be one of the current statistics in VAERS. Even then, her information has not been entered correctly so I know that VAERS is not what it should be. Please do not let this happen to your child. There is NO WAY that I will get my son this vaccine.

  • karen Haack

    This is a travesty to our children…What has happened. Why do we allow them to experiment on our kids. My daughter is one-less healthy teen now. She has no diagnosis. The only conclusion I can make is that she was vaccinated with Gardasil. Before Gardasil she did not have peripheral neuropathy, she did not faint daily, she never had a migraine. Now she has migraines just about everyday followed by leg paralysis. She is constantly fatigued. She has lost the peripheral vision in her left eye. Constant bouts of gastritis, sinusits, No period since her first shot in 2007. Everyday I tend to a sick teen. Do your research before allowing them to be poisoned with this GMO. Look it up and do your research. There is no proof that this shot prevent cervical cancer…However there may be proof that it will give you warts, and possibly HPV.. Just don’t do it.

  • R. Boyce

    This vaccine is NOT safe for anyone with past medical history. It will cause infertility in males and females. … the stats are still out on girls but there have been no healthy pregnancies in any girls that received the vaccine to date.

    Check out PK deficiency. It causes excess niacin deficiency in families that have this genetic trait – but most people never know they have it. Please DO NOT get this vacccine – or any with polysorbates. They are known fertility-impairing ingredients. Please do your research!

  • Christina Viering

    Interesting feedback!

  • G. Bailey

    My 17 year old daughter was injured by this vaccine. She received her first (and only) shot on 4/23/09 and on 4/24/09 she started exhibiting symptoms. The longer the vaccine was in her body the sicker she became. She has dizziness, back pain, headaches, muscle weakness, stabbing nerve pain, extreme fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, burning to her skin.

    This vaccine is not safe – it needs to be recalled- do not get this vaccine!

  • G. Walker

    I thank you each for letting us know what happened to your daughters as a result of this vaccine so that it may prevent it from happening to others. And I pray for your children’s return to health. I also agree that any healthy STD “preventive measures” we push for girls should be pushed for boys, as well. This one, though, should be discouraged for ANYONE.

  • Julian

    All this spam from some forum of anti-vaxxers, what has the internet come to for people to stoop to this and expect anyone to believe that it’s a valid opinion?

  • Julie

    Antivaxxers much? I’ve been vaccinated with Gardasil and I’m healthy with no problems that resulted from the vaccine other than pain at the injection site. The FDA wouldn’t have approved the vaccine unless it was safe in the vast majority of cases.

    Just my two cents.

  • http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=27883 gloria

    Julie refer to the websites I post
    http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=27883
    see how it MAY affect you when you decide to have your babies- sorry but that ignorance you shout out from the roof top instead of LOOKING at facts- babies born with clubbed feet to vaccine participants really needs to be put in check – for YOUR own good- so you never fall prey to another money scheme again.
    Julian I pray you never have babies after you get injected so you don’t have to father a child who was mutilated by the vaccine through your future sperm/ chromosomes.
    both of you and JON- stop being hard heads and look at the side you don’t agree with before deciding out of ignorance whether it is trash- or stay ignorant and reap the repercussions- these moms were entrapped by a negligent company MERCK- but you have the benefit of their past experiences so if you goof you have only your ignorance and lack of deciding to LEARN to fault for it. Stop talking and start reading !! THEN decide if it is still a wonderful idea- then you won’t be ignorant anymore but an expert = you choose.
    go here if you want it in a nutshell- primary resources from everyone who knows and even those who do not like MERCK itself- included is the product literatureto patients from MERCK written BY MERCK I bet you have NEVER SEEN.
    choose the smart thing to do – read.
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AQ3yeFZrHHXWZGR6eGh6NHRfODVobjdqZmJmag&hl=en

  • Sam

    I am a male who got Gardasil when if first came out in 2006, for the reason of preventing genital warts. I had to call around to find a place that would offer it to me off-label, and I found a travel clinic that was willing to order it for me. The NYT analyst Tim Anderson doesn’t have a clue about the mindset of sexually active single people. Most teens and young men would gladly take 3 shots when confronted with the dermatological stock images of condyloma acuminata on the internet.

    The vaccine is safe, it does not cause sterility as one previous poster ignorantly and/or dishonestly stated, and there is no evidence that it carries a higher risk for extremely rare complications than other vaccines. Post hoc doesn’t equal propter hoc. Anti-vaxxers are vile for the misinformation they spread, and for the risk they are willing subject their children to in a vain attempt to validate their willful ignorance.

  • http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=27883 gloria

    For someone to say that others are ignorant when they are going on their own experience is ridiculous. You need to research before you can have an opinion. The moms have obviously had to research if their child has fallen ill- they must have re-researched to reference the injury website, previous hereditary issues and other stats they claim to support their take you on the other hand have only an emotional attack to contribute- “anit-vaxxers” a derogatory slur to stigmatize these three moms who sound like they did the leg work.
    So who is spreading misinformation now? Did it ever occur to you that the symptoms to poisons could be varied? and they are. Some more obvious because they have reactions on the surface noticeable and even obvious pains- because Gardasil, based on the common symptoms of those who have displayed them is Rheumatoid Arthritis and Celiac’s Disease, both debilitating- google them.
    But other symptoms may be an incessant other wise hardly noticeable dull pain in the abdomen – later resulting in an organ decreasing in size across the prolonged exposure to the poison as happens when consuming Sucralose- who would know???You wouldn’t – not for years when the damage has been done. Well, Gardasil has polysorbate 80 and it is a known Poison- forbidden by WHO- the World Health Organization, a “leader” in what is what. And they have claimed this product to be unfit for human consumption- it is an emulsifier and found in detergents – do you think you should be injecting this product into your blood? DO you think that when you read how an 11 year old died- or a 23 yr. old or a 15 year old died of a clot in the lung or in the heart, causing a tachycardia- that is not resultant from the vaccine when it was just days earlier or even the same day? SO you still recommend it? I remember reading on VAERs, one girl died in the shower, clutching her heart with her hand and kneeling down and then finally laying her head on the tub wall. Gone. Some never awoke form their sleep and other had horrific episodes in the ER with whole staffs trying to resuscitate the poor young girls. Whole teams of people trying to keep the girl alive because her body was totally wacked out from the shot- these moms thank God did not lose their daughters but there are housebound over two years and fall apart sporadically when they try to go to school because of the arthritis and they react to food they could have eaten before- because Celiac basically starves the person who has it – they cannot assimilate the food they eat- receive no nutrients and it even makes them sick to eat- they have to be so careful what they put into their mouths. And the pain from the arthritis is horrific they can’t move and they faint all the time which makes it unsafe to leave them alone- all from a vaccine. They can never be left alone – like a small child. They are teens and want to be with their friends and outside and on their sports teams and learning and getting A’s and not flunking the year due to absences and brain fog or pain. They want to be enjoying their high school years but they are home sleeping the day away due to illness, weakness, and lack of nutrition. Yet, instead of listening to them you label them and judge them and call them denigrating names as if they were a bunch of bleeding liberals who are fighting development in society and medicine. And you call them ignorant. GO to the sites on Youtube and google and understand that if you look at everything you will find more against Gardasil then for it. And if you find things for it understand that MERCK pays them handsomely because vaccines, esp. mandated ones are billion dollar ventures. Please grow and learn = not for those ladies, they know from what life has doled them out, but for you and your futures. Take the responsibility to read and learn as much as you can and to keep you mouth shut until you have something to offer- previous participant included- you can’t tell us you are absolutely free of ill effect until you have children. Sorry, but it will be decades before we all know because the tests done to test how your arm will feel for 5 days and how long the titer measured out for and even this brought little or no information. Research so you can come back and teach us something. Not to name call.

  • gloria

    Let’s see- I have people with NO experience with the vaccine, then two who took it and feel like nothing happened to them and then a few that have sick children and a life that sounds very hellish -
    Ok, well, if I took the vaccine and I was lucky then I might end up like the guy and girl who took the vaccine and nothing happened- but if I take it and I fall down and die as have done at least 72 girls, cause I did do my reading, or I end up like the 15,000+ girls who bothered to post a neg. reaction, which can be hard to do if I am sick and the doctor doesn’t help me, because the doctor is not obligated to post them which would ensure the correct numbers, I am screwed.
    I will have a life like the “ignorant anti-vaxxers” being described. You know what, ummm no thanks. You don’t have any clue what the vaccine did to you just because you don’t feel sick. How many people feel fine and then find out they have a blazing huge mammary gland cancer or a huge cancer in the behind? Sorry, but people find out ALL the time about enormous issues by accident because they did not feel bad. My girlfriend went in to see someone about false boobies and she found out she had an infected boob, breast cancer. You have no proof you both are well and they are living proof and some are dead proof that it injures- think about it = it is a no brainer and you can’t just insult people who think different than you do – you need to learn what you are talking about or sound ignorant yourself – insulting and then saying that someone else is ignorant – -all I have to say to that is -”it takes one to know one”, or nany nany boo boo-

  • Frank

    I wish the fringe right to lifers would have mobilized for the past 9 years as we beat the drums of war and killed so many of our children.
    Where were you then?

    I am a single, sexually active man who wears condoms unless I am in a commited monogamous relationship. I didn’t know that I may have been slowly spreading hpv to my partners for the past 20 years. I have no signs or symptoms of warts- but most men don’t. I’ve been sympathetic to girlfriends that have stressed and worried over irregular pap smears and it makes me sick to think that I may have unknowingly hurt them.

    My personal experience with born again christians is that they were once wild and loose, and then grabbed God because they were adrift. Those same people rally against vaccination, calling it an invitation to a hedonistic lifestyle. Prayers won’t save them fom the cervical cancer they harbor, but a shot may save their sons and daughters.

  • Rosemary Mathis

    I can assure the two that made the comment regarding “anti-vaxxers” that I am in no way that. If I was, my poor daughter would not have lived the nightmare of Gardasil for the past year and I would not have spent tens of thousands of dollars at 2 major university hospitals trying to get her life back to the quality that it was prior to Gardasil.

    I can also assure you that I am against the government approving these vaccines BEFORE they are fully tested and using our children as guinea pigs.

    If you want proof that this is happening to children all over the country, we could provide you with MILLIONS of medical receipts.

    Some people have had Gardasil without short term effects, but what will the long term bring? We will just have to wait and see.,,,,,,,

  • Cory

    To the anti-vaxxers, from Wikipedia:

    “The most recent update on adverse events was published by JAMA and looked at data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), covering 12,424 reported adverse events after about 23 million doses of vaccine between June 2006 and December 2008.[31] Most adverse effects were minor and not greater than background rates compared with other vaccines, the exception being higher rates for syncope and venous thromboembolic events.”

    As with all medical treatments, there is a small risk of an adverse side effects with the taking of Gardasil, and even the chance of some extreme ones. This is inevitable given the wide variety of genetic and environmental differentiation across the population. Given that about 5,000 women DIE a -year- from cervical cancer out of a number three times larger who were diagnosed, and that 70% of cases of the cancer are caused by forms of HPV which are prevented by the vaccination, the choice is painfully clear.

  • Frank

    Rosemary, I never wished somebody was posting a fake comment until now.

    Are you for vaccines that are researched more rigorously? That is something that the federal government could undertake directly. If big pharma can’t or won’t spend the time and money researching vaccines, then the fed. gov’t can do the research for the betterment of us all, then sell the product to the consumer for much less than Merck would. As for the FDA…..

  • cory

    OT but….I have posted on other vax issue threads–a few weeks ago I was discussing varicella and shingles–however recently I have noticed another “Cory” on these vax threads. From now on I will be “coryy” with 2 y’s —it bothers me that we may be confused with each other.

    (not that there is anything wrong, they just aren’t my words )

  • Corry

    I am already Corry with two r’s! I am the one who posts things that aren’t relevant to discussions, and then explains myself (in parenthesis) How crazy!

  • Julie

    Gloria: I’ve had multiple physicals since the years that I’ve gotten the shot. Multiple doctors say I’m fine. Who are you to tell me that I’m going to have fertility problems? I am sorry that certain people have had adverse reactions and are still suffering from them. However, eliminating the vaccine may endanger more lives by rendering them susceptible to HPV, which could have been prevented by Gardasil and not by fear-mongering doomsayers.

  • Denise

    “ONE LESS” has been mentioned by one of the writers. Our family is also “ONE LESS”. Jessie had all three shots of Gardasil. After the second shot she and her mother notices the headaches, Muscle aches, and fatigue. Jessie was taken to the doctor that gave her the Gardasil. The doctor said it was just stress. Jessie was a cheerleader; a member of the National Honor Society, Played many sports and was practicing for softball, which was about to start.
    Jessie went with her mother on February 20, 2008 for the third shot of Gardasil. The next night she told her mother that the headache was back and went to bed. Her mother went to work early the next day and upon returning home from work found Jessie dead. She had been dead for several hours. The medical examiner said, “She was dead before she hit the floor”. Still he could find no cause for her death.
    Gardasil was typed into the computer and the nightmares that came up were shocking. We have been in contact with several families that have also lost their daughters to the vaccine that was to protect them. If we had only known that there were other side effects other than the few that were listed by Merck. Jessie would NEVER have received this wonder vaccine that is killing and maiming our girls.
    Since Jessie’s death we have been researching and cannot believe that the FDA and the CDC have not pulled this product off the market. There are so many unanswered questions. The GRAY ZONES of risk were mentioned. They are calling all of the deaths (48 plus) just in the U.S. that we know of, sheer coincidences. There have been 15,000 adverse reactions also reported just in the U.S.. Statistics show that only 1%-10% is ever reported to VAERS, which is a very small percentage. Many families do not know to report the reactions or how to report them. It is not mandatory for doctors to report the adverse reactions so many doctors do not report them.
    Should I go on? YES!!!
    Gardasil trials by Merck brought many new medical conditions to many of the girls and women that were being used for the studies. This information is found on the FDA web site dated September 11, 2008. If you would like to look at it the information is on page 132 table 73 titled “New Medical Conditions.
    HPV is a virus that the body can fight off over a period of time. The virus COULD cause cervical cancer, NOT WOULD cause cancer. In the U.S. cervical cancer is on the decline with the Pap test and other forms of detection. We do not have an epidemic of cervical cancer so why is Merck pushing to have every girl vaccinated. YOU GUESSED IT!!!! The answer is MONEY. Merck lost a lot of money with the drug VIOX. This drug was also killing people and had to be removed from the market. This is why my family and many others are fighting so hard to remove gardasil from the market. We do not want other families to suffer the loss of a child or have a daughter that is unable to function a normal life because of something that was suppose to keep her safe.
    Please do not have your daughter vaccinated without researching Gardasil
    A grandmother who knows.

  • Sam

    Denise, the medical examiner could not find a cause of death, yet you “know” that the cause was Gardasil. Just because the death occured after the shot, that is not evidence in itself that the shot caused the death. VAERS is a voluntary reporting system that accepts any and all unverified claims of adverse events, with the aim of uncovering rare side effects that clinical testing may have missed. Because of their extreme rarity, these possible side effects would only become apparent when the sample size is in the millions, as opposed to in the thousands relied upon during clinical testing; this is what happened with Vioxx. All claims are counted regardless of how plausible, and only further analysis can elucidate any meaningful patterns.

    When the sample size is in the multi-millions, it is stastically inevitable that some deaths will occur by chance in the period of days to months following the vaccine, and those deaths can be reported to, and will be included in, VAERS. Further analysis has not found a higher rate of death in the vaccinated group vs. the unvaccinated population.

    I am sorry that your granddaughter died, but you can’t know that it was the result of the vaccine. Epidemiology points to Gardasil being very safe.

  • JKH

    As a woman who was infected by her spouse with HPV and who is now fighting for her life with breast cancer, I made my daughter get the vaccine. She went with her friend who was also vaccinated. Neither girl has had any reaction. The series of 3 shots was finished over a year ago.
    I am deeply suspicious of the people who have written here, and I think that you are doing a tremendous disservice to the community at large.
    Try cancer sometime.

  • Frank

    Wow! Who mobilized the crazies, and gave them these talking points? I love Discover magaazine online- there is always a mix of views and backgrounds. I have never seen so many testimonials from what should be a sliver of people impacted by this vaccine.

    I took a chance and told a personal part of my life that I don’t share with my own family!
    I didn’t think I would get my first point past the censors of this site because I intuited a zealous motive for the previous posts. Thank God that if you give enough rope to fools they will hang themselves.

    JKH, my heart go’s out to you.

  • clara

    I am deeply sorry to those who have lost and are suffering…
    but I am just wondering why nobody in this thread has thought to identify what exactly about Gardasil was the same for children who were adversely affected by this vaccine?
    I have had it, and everybody I know that has had it is fine.
    Is there some target group that should avoid the vaccine?
    It’s one thing to blame the vaccine, but perhaps the tragic results came from a combination of the vaccine and some other factor in the environment.
    I think an epidemiology insight is in order before we can start to put all the blame of Gardasil.
    and while it’s silly to call people antivaxxers, its silly on the other side to assume that people FOR gardasil haven’t done any research. while big pharma has a history of botching data, it has been a long time since gardasil was released and plenty of people have had this vaccination without harm = no big deal, for evident reason.

  • Amy

    Just for the record, I have had the vaccine and am fine.

  • Dave

    Speaking as a man who has had very few vaccines, doesn’t go to a doctor for regular checkups, and leads a perfectly healthy life without the tests, and anguish, people who have this vaccine had the choice to have it, and if they were unaware of a side effect, that’s very sad, but as common sense dictates, if you don’t know what it is, it might be best to wait on such things. I feel sorry for the poor people who were affected by the virus and contracted cancer as a result, it’s a serious disaster when that happens. But as someone unbiased, perhaps people who come forward with a negative side effect that isn’t in the fine print deserve to be payed attention to more. Perhaps this is one of those things where the cure is more dangerous than the ailment, or perhaps there is some other external force active in this whole thing… Although i can’t really see how that is possible. As for this treatment for a male… I can’t truly see the need to get a cure for something i have small odds of getting, with something that has been reported to be unsafe by many. But to each his/her own i suppose.

  • Cory

    Dave, the reported side effects compared to the benefits, if you’ll read my earlier comment, are enormous. HPV has really no effect on us as men, true — it’s mainly the women you love who could suffer from the virus, and getting the shot may save them from a painful and nearly certain death by cancer.

    Honestly, look at the statistics. Far, far more women die from now-preventable forms of cancer from HPV infection than receive even any serious side effect from Gardasil. The choice is clear.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    Don’t forget that the vaccine wouldn’t just protect men against the strains of HPV that can in very rare cases lead to cancer — it would also protect men against the strains that cause genital warts. Those warts might not be life-threatening, but they are unpleasant. And, as Cory and others have pointed out, it would prevent men from spreading those strains to women.

  • jamiet

    every single comment here about the dangers of this vaccine is a complete and utter fabrication.

    it is mind-boggling that people so stupid can still figure out how to turn on a computer.

  • mark

    jamiet says
    every single comment here about the dangers of this vaccine is a complete and utter fabrication

    Can you back that statement up with some proof please !

  • Hannah

    I’m supposed to be getting the HPV vaccine tomorrow and after reading some of these comments I was pretty worried. So I looked it up on the internet, on this website – http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2009/how-safe-is-the-hpv-vaccine/ and discovered that there is a 145,000:1 chance of dying from the vaccination. You are more likely to die being struck by lightning, and FAR more likely to die from cervical cancer. I’m not saying I know more about this jab than anyone who has written on this page, but people whose daughters have become ill after having this really are in the minority. Stop trying to scare people through your own personal stories, teenagers and young adults should be encouraged to protect against cervical cancer!

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