In 2006 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that girls, ages 11-12, receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV can cause cervical cancer, and girls have been the prime focus for the vaccination.

The AAP has published new guidelines for the use of the HPV vaccine and now recommends that adolescent boys also receive the vaccine. The vaccine has been available to boys for two years but Tuesday’s vote was the first to strongly recommend routine vaccination.

The new recommendations were prompted by evidence that the HPV vaccine is effective as a treatment against genital warts in both males and females. HPV infection has been associated with an increased risk for not only cervical, but anal and some throat cancers as well.

The AAP recommends that the vaccine be administered at 11 to 12 years of age in both boys and girls. Their rationale is two-fold: First, the vaccine is most effective if it is administered before the individual begins engaging in sexual activity, mainly because the vaccine is inactive against HPV strains acquired before vaccination. Second, children mount the most robust antibody responses to the vaccine when they are between the ages of 9 and 15 years.

Two HPV vaccines are currently available in the United States, but there are differences in their approved indications. Quadrivalent HPV vaccine (HPV4, Gardasil, Merck) is the only vaccine approved for use in boys.

Bivalent HPV vaccine (HPV2, Cervarix, GlaxoSmithKline) is only approved for use in girls; HPV4 is also approved for girls.

Some of the updated AAP recommendations are:

  • Girls aged 11 to 12 years should be routinely immunized using 3 doses of the HPV4 or HPV2 vaccine, administered intramuscularly at 0, 1 to 2, and 6 months.
  • Girls and women aged from 13 to 26 years who have not been previously immunized or who have not completed their vaccinations should finish the series.
  • Boys aged 11 to 12 years should be routinely immunized with HPV4, using the same schedule as for girls.
  • Boys and men aged from 13 to 21 years who have not already been immunized or who have not completed their vaccines should finish the series.

Some health insurance policies now pay for the vaccine. If you do not have insurance and your child is not eligible for free immunizations, the HPV vaccine is expensive. Check with your pediatrician about your area’s cost.

The recommendations are published online and in the March print issue of Pediatrics.

There is a lot of online information available on HPV and the vaccine; some is very helpful and some can be unreliable. If you have concerns or questions, please talk with your pediatrician.

The vaccine is recommended for adolescents who are not yet sexually active. Many young people believe that oral sex is safer than vaginal sex and some believe that oral sex is not sex at all. A sharp rise in throat cancer among younger men has been linked to HPV. Vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer, but they do not treat or get rid of existing HPV infections.

For more facts on the HPV vaccine and HPV in general, check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/vac-faqs.htm

Sources: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/759223  http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/vac-faqs.htm