The HPV vaccine is recommended, in 3 doses, for boys around ages 11-and-12-years-old and for those who did not get the vaccine before they are 21-years-old. It’s a pricey and slightly controversial vaccine: the 3 doses cost just under $400. So, before you call your doctor to schedule an appointment, check out these quick facts and guidelines about the vaccine.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for “Human Papillomavirus.” Both men and women, boys and girls, already carry it. HPV is known as the direct cause of genital warts. It is an STD, spread during skin to skin contact during any type of sexual activity with another person. Don’t panic, it is the most common STD in the U.S. So common in fact, that nearly all sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their life. Those in their late teens and early 20s are the most susceptible. (CDC)

If it is so common, why is it necessary?

HPV can lead to cancer in both men and women. It is estimated that in the U.S. each year, about 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women–cervical cancer is the most common.  In the “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer” conducted by researchers at the CDC Prevention and National Cancer Institute and other prominent research institutions, cancer caused by HPV is on the rise. Their numbers were based on cancer rates tracked in the U.S. in 2008. While there are several strains of HPV, the two most threatening strains are 16 and 18. Read more about the report here.

Why are boys now recommended for it?

The vaccine is aimed to reduce the risk of penial, throat, and, most prominently, anal cancer in men. Throat and anal cancer caused by HPV are growing in frequency. (CBSNews) Doctors also recommend this in hopes to reduce infections in their future partner. If their future partner ends up being a male, their risk for HPV cancers is increased by about 17 times that of the heterosexual population.

Is it the same vaccine for both boys and girls?

Yes and no… There are two different HPV vaccines: Cervarix and Gardasil. Only Gardasil is available for males. Note that the main difference between Cervarix and Gardasil is that Gardasil also protects against two strains that cause genital warts. (photo credit here)


What are the risks with the vaccine?

The FDA has licensed and approved both vaccines. According to research gathered by CBSNews, out of the 12,424 cases of adverse events (as of June 2006) only 6 percent were serious and 32 deaths reported. None of those deaths, however, were exclusively linked to the vaccine. There were a total of 23 million doses administered by June 2006.

Many people are also concerned with this vaccination leading to other oncogenic (cancerous) forms. Papilloma viruses have taken millions of years to develop to the current strains. However, there are no indications that the various strains are linked together. Having one doesn’t necessarily make you more susceptible for others.

Bottom line, is it necessary for my son to receive the vaccine?

The answer falls into a grey zone. The CDC  recommends Gardasil and as stated, there has been a rise in cancer linked to HPV. But, other practitioners are still weary on the effectiveness of the vaccine in boys as it is still in the early stages of research regarding males.

According to research gathered by Kevin Pho, MD, there’s little research to indicate that whether the vaccine is truly effective for boys. Pho says this, “In women, early HPV infections can be demonstrated by pap smear—there is no similar way to show that men have caught HPV. Blood tests in both men and women can serve as “surrogate markers” of infection, but aren’t really accurate for specific patients to predict disease.”

For more quick answers, check out the CDC’s FAQ here.