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Some Countries Are Funding The HPV Vaccine For Boys, & Here's Why That's Important

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We all remember the commercials about HPV, don't we? Teenage girls standing in high school hallways, reminding us solemnly (and correctly) that they needed to be vaccinated against HPV (also known as human papillomavirus). Well, it turns out there should have maybe been a teenage boy or two in those commercials as well. Some countries are funding the HPV vaccine for boys, and it's a step in the right direction.

HPV is a virus that has been linked to several forms of cancer if left untreated: cervical, anal, penile, and mouth and throat cancers (called oropharyngeal cancer) in particular. While many countries are already funding the HPV vaccine for girls, a few have started to include boys. In Canada, many provinces have added the HPV vaccine for boys in grade seven to be administered at school. According to the Center for Disease Control, around 9,000 males are affected by HPV-related cancers every year, and those cancers are on the rise. The CDC reports:

Since the HPV vaccine was first administered a decade ago, cases of cervical cancer have been chopped in half, according to the BBC. One professor, Ian Frazer of the Translational Research Institute, told the BBC that cancers caused by HPV could be completely eradicated within the next 40 years at this rate.

While this is wonderful news for the young women who have been vaccinated, what about the boys?

Boys are clearly in need of the vaccine as well, as oropharyngeal cancer is on the rise in the male population. Vaccinating boys around the age of 11 or 12-years-old is recommended by the CDC for two reasons:

  1. HPV vaccine must be given before exposure to virus for it to be effective in preventing cancers and other diseases caused by HPV.
  2. HPV vaccine produces a high immune response at this age.

According to Frazer, HPV is a common virus that most people can contract through skin-on-skin contact, and is often sexually transmitted. In an interview with the BBC, he said:

The HPV vaccine is considered a safe way of protecting both boys and girls from potentially deadly cancers by the scientific community. The CDC reports:

The vaccine has proven effective for girls; now it's time to start protecting the boys from cancer as well. And it's important to remind young boys that they are just as responsible for their reproductive health as young girls.