HPV Vaccines for Boys?

On October 25, 2011, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all 11 to 12-year-old boys get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). According to the CDC press release, “The HPV vaccine will afford protection against certain HPV-related conditions and cancers in males, and vaccination of males with HPV may also provide indirect protection of women by reducing transmission of HPV.”

First licensed in 2006, the HPV vaccination, branded as Gardasil or Cervarix, has previously been recommended only for girls. With this new recommendation, private insurers will be able to pay for the vaccine for boys. The vaccine is expensive, costing more than $300 for the three-shot series.

The HPV vaccine has been controversial for reasons other than its cost. Parents have been reluctant to give their pre-adolescent children a vaccine to protect them from sexually transmitted disease (STD).

The HPV vaccine for boys is also controversial because its benefits are not consistent. For example, Gardisil has been shown to prevent genital warts, but only in heterosexual men. There’s no evidence that Gardisil protects homosexual men from genital warts. Similarly, Gardasil has been shown to prevent anal cancer precursors in homosexual men, however these precursors rarely progress to anal cancer in heterosexual men.

A further rationale for the male vaccine is that preventing genital warts in heterosexual men will help reduce infection in women. However, this is only so if the vaccine is efficacious for a very long time. Every vaccine has a duration of efficacy. According to the Immunization Action Coalition(IAC), the HPV vaccine lasts five years.

Diane Harper, MD

However, Diane Harper, MD, the leading international expert on HPV, says that HPV antibody titers in the blood are detectable for only two years after HPV vaccination. Regardless of whether HPV is efficacious for two or five years, a child will need an HPV booster before he or she becomes sexually active.

Even with a booster, the efficacy of the HPV vaccine is questionable. According to Harper, “The cost modeling data indicate that with 50% female vaccination, vaccinating up to 50% of boys will provide some protection for females if and only if Gardasil lasts for a lifetime of duration. This modeled prevention of disease in females by vaccinating males does not exist if Gardasil loses efficacy earlier than 20 years.” Currently less than 50% of girls have had one shot and each shot lasts just two to five years.

It will take decades for the US population to be protected by the HPV vaccine alone and we will not see a substantial decrease in cervical cancer from vaccines until 70% are fully vaccinated. Until we reach that level of HPV vaccine saturation, STD screening alone is at least as effective as STD screening with vaccines in preventing HPV infection.

Controversy over the HPV vaccine erupted in the press earlier this year when Michelle Bachmann claimed that someone had become mentally retarded in one week from the HPV vaccine. While her statement has been widely discredited, more than 18,000 reports of adverse events associated with the HPV vaccine have been made to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) since 2006, including 72 deaths.  In fact, the risk of adverse events associated with the HPV vaccine is 7 events per 100,000 vaccinated, while the risk of cervical cancer in the developed world is 3 cases per 100,000.The story of Gabby Swank, who reportedly died from complications of the HPV vaccine, is documented in the new film The Greater Goodstreaming live on mercola.com until November 5th.

Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)

Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

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