CDC guidelines for vaccinating boys against HPV applauded

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The Centers for Disease and Prevention voted overwhelmingly to recommend vaccinating boys against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a finding that a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute head and neck cancer expert supports.

"We are clearly seeing an epidemic of HPV-related head and neck cancer – the numbers are rising dramatically," says Robert I. Haddad, MD, chief of Dana-Farber's head and neck oncology program. "HPV is a cause of many cancers, so it is really important to support endeavors to vaccinate."

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which helps set standards for childhood and other vaccinations voted to bring the recommendation for boys in line with that for girls. The vote was 13 in favor, with one member abstaining.

In June 2006, The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the vaccine, Gardasil (Merck), for girls ages 9 to 26. The vaccine protects against four strains of HPV, including HPV-6 and -11, as well as the high risk strains HPV-16 and 18, which are a known cause of cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, and vaginal cancers. The CDC followed suit recommending the three dose vaccine become a routine immunization for girls. Gardasil was licensed for use in boys in October 2009.

The full recommendation is a change from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) earlier decision. Full recommendation makes the vaccine routine for boys starting at 11 or 12, and it also requires them to give the vaccine to patients when requested.

"I advise my patients with HPV-related cancers to vaccinate their children against HPV – both boys and girls," says Haddad. “There is a misconception that only girls should be vaccinated and that is the wrong approach. We strongly believe that both boys and girls should be vaccinated against HPV."

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