Nassau University Medical Center
2201 Hempstead Turnpike, East Meadow, NY 11554
On October 25 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend that males ages 11 to 21 should be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States.
The vaccine was first approved in 2006, was previously recommended for girls and young women between 11 and 26. Now, both boys and girls are encouraged to be vaccinated.
A recent article by Steven J.Walerstein, NuHealth’s Medical Director, explained the importance of the vaccine for both girls and boys.
“Up to 80% of sexually active people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their life, and be at risk for infection of their penis, anus, mouth or throat. Most will overcome the infection with no long term effects, but in some people the infection leads to cellular damage which may lead to cancers of the cervix, vagina and anus in women and cancer of the penis and anus in men. Recent evidence has linked HPV infections with throat cancers in both sexes as a result of oral sex; a study this month found 70% of ‘oropharyngeal’ cancers are related to HPV infection.”
There is currently no test, treatment or cure for HPV in men. Condom use may lower the chance of HPV infection, but are not 100% effective. Because HPV is so common and usual invisible to the infected patient, the only sure way not to get it is to not have sexual contact.
Dr. Walerstein continued, saying that the HPV vaccine only “protects against new infections; it has no effect on established infections. That is why it is recommended vaccination be given at age 11 or 12, before sexual activity has begun. The protocol is a series of three shots (the second 1-2 months after the first and the third 6 months after the first). It is very safe and effective, with no serious side effects.”
Unfortunately, the HPV vaccine has become politicized. Although some believe vaccinating pre-teens for a sexually transmitted disease may encourage early sexual behavior, there is no evidence for this. More recently, a presidential candidate claimed that the vaccine was associated with a risk of subsequent mental retardation. “This was unfortunate and irresponsible as there is so such link,” says Dr. Walerstein.
Parents need to discuss whether their children should receive the HPV vaccination with their pediatrician, and make a decision based on his/her medical advice.
For more information on human papilloma virus, go to the CDC website at: www.cdc.gov/hpv/WhatIsHPV.html. For more information from Dr. Walerstein, click HERE.