February 27th, 2012
07:32 AM ET

Boys should get HPV vaccination too

Parents have been hearing a lot about the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine. But what was once designed solely for girls and young women up to the age of 26 to protect them from different strains of the virus, is now also being strongly recommended for younger boys.

Following in the footsteps of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending females and males at 11 to 12 years of age have routine HPV vaccinations.

Doctors say the vaccine is most effective if administered before a child becomes sexually active, and responds better in the bodies of younger children, usually between the ages of 9 to 15.

HPV is known to be the root cause of cervical cancer in women, and HPV can lead to other health problems in both females and males, including genital warts and mouth and throat cancers.

Young men diagnosed with HPV have also developed penile cancer and even anal cancer. These viruses, found primarily in sexually active adolescents and young adults, are the most common sexually transmitted viruses in the United States.

It was also stressed in the AAP recommendations that young men having sex with other young men should be particularly careful and consider being vaccinated.

The policy paper recommended that men 20 to 26 years old who have not been vaccinated for HPV, or who have not completed their series of HPV shots (the vaccine is administered in three doses), should do so as soon as possible. That’s because the CDC estimates about 7,000 HPV associated cancers in the U.S. could be prevented in young men by the HPV vaccine each year.

The AAP made their decision based on data provided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on vaccine efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness.

Although some parents have been reluctant to have their children inoculated with another vaccine because of possible side effects, such as weakness, fever, tingling, itching and hives, researchers say the benefits outweigh the risks.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.