Over 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