On Tuesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at CDC voted 13-0 to recommend that boys and young men receive vaccinations against the human papillomavirus, the New York Times reports (Harris, New York Times, 10/25).
With one committee member abstaining, the panel recommended routine vaccination of boys at age 11 or 12, though boys may receive the shot as early as age nine. The panel also voted 8-5 to recommend that boys and young men ages 13 to 21 who have not have had the shot received a "catch-up" vaccination (Stein, Washington Post, 10/25).
Committee members who voted against the second recommendation had hoped to make the upper age limit 26 (New York Times, 10/25).
Although CDC is not required to follow ACIP's recommendations, it typically does (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 10/25).
About the Vaccine
Merck's three-dose HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is approved for people ages nine through 26, though it is usually administered at age 11 or 12, when children are scheduled to receive other vaccinations (Stobbe, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/25).
The vaccine protects against four strains of the sexually transmitted virus, including the types that cause warts and certain cancers, but it is not effective once people have been exposed to those strains of HPV. Therefore, experts recommend vaccination before the onset of sexual activity.
Health officials also encourage vaccination at a young age because that is when "immune responses are strongest," Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said.
Vaccination for Males
Since 2006, CDC has recommended the vaccine for girls and women to protect against HPV strains that cause genital warts and cervical, oral and some other cancers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In recommending the vaccine for boys and men, experts cited evidence of the vaccine's protective effect, as well as rising rates of HPV-associated anal and throat cancers in men (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 10/26). Vaccination of men also helps protect their female sex partners, the advisory panel said on Tuesday.
Only about one-third of adolescent girls have completed the three-shot vaccination series. CDC officials are hoping to improve vaccination rates with better education campaigns (Wall Street Journal, 10/25).
The full Gardasil series can cost about $400 without insurance. A CDC endorsement has a strong influence on whether doctors recommend the vaccine and whether health insurers cover it. Under the federal health reform law, health plans will be required to cover recommended vaccines (Washington Post, 10/25).