HPV Shot: Leave Boys (Warts and All) Unvaccinated, Experts Say

Filed under: In The News, Sex

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Is the HPV shot worthwhile for boys? Credit: Getty Images

Warts schmarts. Do teenage boys really want -- or need -- a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease that causes unsightly, uh, blemishes?

Of course, human papillomavirus (HPV) can do more than put knots in your wood. In rare cases -- maybe 5,000 or so a year -- it can cause cancer severe enough (occasionally) to cancel your subscription to Life.

Never mind that. The New York Times reports federal vaccine advisers are focusing on this whole warts thing. They question whether or not it's worth the time, trouble and expense of promoting the vaccine just to spare boys a few genital warts later in life.

Doing so, The Times reports, also could divert attention from promoting the vaccine among girls who need it to prevent cervical cancer. Boys who have been vaccinated can protect their partners, but health officials argue it's still more effective to get as many girls directly immunized as possible.

In other words, girls, take responsibility for your own health and safety. Don't depend on the guy to protect you from anything.

Dr. Franklyn Judson, a member of the government's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and a professor at the University of Colorado, tells The Times few guys care about genital warts.

They don't so much care what they look like down there, so long as all the moving parts are working properly.

"In fact, 50 percent of patients who end up being diagnosed in an STD clinic didn't even notice them (the warts) or were not overly concerned about them," Judson tells the newspaper.

However, Dr. James C. Turner, a liaison to the committee from the American College Health Association, tells The Times men and boys do care about warts "not because of the medical consequences, but because of the social consequences."

It's a matter of keeping up appearances.

"I would say that the men that I see would rate genital warts on the quality scale just above death," Turner adds.

Although genital warts are the most common consequence, HPV can also cause cervical, anal and some head and throat cancers. The bug can be passed through intercourse, anal or oral sex and even kissing.

However, with the vaccine potentially preventing -- at most -- 5,000 cases of cancer in males a year, experts still debate if it's worth it.

According to The Times, fewer than 1 percent of boys ages 11-17 have been immunized against HPV. But Turner tells the newspaper the number shoots up 15 percent on college campuses.

Girls are the ones who really need the vaccine, The Times reports. Campaigns to get girls vaccinated have reportedly not been very effective even though the vaccine can save girls' lives.

All the more reasons, experts tell the newspaper, to focus on girls and leave the boys to their warts.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.