Remember a few weeks ago when it seemed like all the GOP presidential candidates could talk about was whether or not we should be giving girls a shot that’s been proven to protect against certain kinds of cancers?
Well guess what, folks? The Great HPV Vaccine War of 2011 ain’t over yet.
A panel of experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that boys aged 11 and 12 should also routinely be given the human papiloma virus (HPV) vaccine to protect against genital warts, as well as anal, neck, and mouth cancers.
The vaccine could also help protect the young men from giving HPV to women—and other men—when they become sexually active later in life.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., with the CDC estimating that at least 20 million Americans currently carry the virus. At least six million become newly infected each year. In fact, it’s so common, that half of all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives.
There are more than 40 different types of HPV, and in most cases, there are no outward signs of infection. The CDC says that 90 percent of the time, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years of infection. In other cases, HPV can cause genital warts in both men and women.
And other strains of HPV can cause cervical, anal, mouth, and neck cancer in both men and women. For example, half of the 12,000 cases of cervical cancer in American women last year were associated with HPV infection.
The vaccine, called Gardasil, is aimed at protecting against those cancers.
So why the controversy?
Well, some people are uncomfortable with the idea of vaccinating young kids against a virus that’s transmitted through sexual activity. Parents don’t like to think of the fact that their young kids are going to grow up and, well, have sex. But in order to be effective, the vaccine’s three doses need to be administered before sexual activity begins.