Should Boys and Girls Be Vaccinated Against HPV?

By Robert Haddad, MD

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccinations were originally advised only for girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Pediatrics now recommend that both girls and boys be vaccinated. The recommendations are well founded: HPV infection is the number one cause of oropharyngeal cancer, which occurs in the middle part of the throat and is diagnosed in about 14,000 Americans each year. Men are three times more likely than women to develop oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV.

Robert Haddad, MD
Robert Haddad, MD

Infection with HPV often occurs through sexual contact, and the CDCP recommends that vaccination occur in the pre-teen years. (The upper recommended age limit is 26 for women, 21 for men.) Current vaccines offer protection against four strains of the virus – strains 16 and 18, which cause oropharyngeal and cervical cancer, and strains 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.

The vaccine is administered in three doses – the second dose given one or two months after the first, and the third given four or five months later.

Unfortunately, only about 35 percent of all American girls ages 13 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against HPV. In Massachusetts, for example, while two-thirds of girls ages 13 to 17 have received one dose of the vaccine, statistics show, only 47 percent have received all three doses. The rates are likely lower for boys, because the recommendation that they be vaccinated was issued just two years ago. We need to make a concerted effort to improve vaccination rates locally and nationally.

Robert Haddad, MD is director of the Center for Head and Neck Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. See his discussion on this subject on an online chat at Huffington Post Live

Below, Dr. Haddad talks about HPV and cancer risk.

15 thoughts on “Should Boys and Girls Be Vaccinated Against HPV?”

  1. Thank you for this article. We had our daughter vaccinated at age 12. At the time, it was recommended that we vaccinate our son when he came of age, solely as a means to protect his future partners from the risk of cervical cancer in case he had previously been exposed to the virus.

    We had no idea at the time that men were at a higher risk for oropharyngeal cancers due to the virus. Fortunately, we also had him vaccinated this past year.

    It’s interesting how much progress can be made in a short time. When we vaccinated our daughter 4 years ago, it was not covered by insurance. I had to buy the drug myself (and it cost close to $200 a dose) and bring it to the doctor myself. When we had our son vaccinated, the state was supplying the medication. Thanks again.

    • Hi Patricia:

      Thanks for the question. As Dr. Haddad points out, the CDC recommends it for males up to 21, but the CDC does also say that, “All men may receive the vaccine through age 26, and should speak with their doctor to find out if getting vaccinated is right for them.”
      You can find more information at the CDC’s web site:
      We hope that’s helpful

  2. I have and will continue to steadfastly refuse to let my 13 year-old daughter get this vaccine — when she turns 18 and is out of the house then that it is her decision until this I have moral/religious and medical issues with this vaccine — How many have died already from the vaccine alone? Nope not allowing her to have it — Also why don’t we just teach our children correctly – that multiple partners doesn’t have to be the norm, hasn’t always been the norm and if Michael Douglas had just behaved properly he wouldn’t be in this situation

    Be parents already — stand up to peer pressure and just say NO — NO to this vaccine, No to sex/sexual activity outside of marriage, No to the immoral ‘norms’ of today’s society

    • “How many have died already from the vaccine alone?”
      From the vaccine ALONE? No one. The very, very small number of women who have died after receiving the vaccine have not had anything linking those deaths to the vaccine.

      Consider someone with a peanut allergy who goes, drinks a glass of milk, eats a snickers bar, and dies. The person died after drinking milk, but the milk was not the cause of death. There is no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine is anything more than a glass of milk in cases where people have died.

      Multiple partners don’t have to be the norm… but your daughter only has to be intimate with ONE person to get HPV, because you don’t know her partner’s history.

      • Both my daughter and son were vaccinated under 17 years of age. We researched the data, we discussed it with our doctor, we discussed why a vaccination is a personal medical decision, not a moral or religious decision. Don’t confuse the two. If I can give my children the opportunity to avoid cancer in any form – I will. Our family has seen what cancer does to a person. Thank you to the medical teams that are continuing to find solutions.

    • I typically don’t comment on this but Julia after reading your post I was truly saddened. First of all let me state very clearly that I indeed share your ideals in no sex outside of marriage and I am very much a conservative Christian. But rearing three children, you can not possibly be around your children 24/7. It is our job as parents to instruct our children right from wrong but God made each person to have their own will. Once away from your sight it is ignorance to think that your child will not do what their will is including but not limited to sex. And should they choose to do this, it is THEIR consequence to face NOT ours! But ignoring this and refusing a vaccine that could save them if only minimally from their choices is actually quite cruel. All the best to you and your family!

  3. Julia, you are right on. There were deaths during the trial later attributed to car crashes . Deaths from vaccines Are often attributed to other causes. Agreed let’s teach out kids not to
    Sleep around. 4 kids and NO vaccines, antibiotics,or fluoride no dairy of processed foods. They are never sick and No cavities!!!

  4. Hi – interesting article, but I’d like to know what are the risks of HPV related cancers where both sexual partners practice abstinence before their sexual relationship and remain committed to each other and sexually exclusive? I cannot find this sort of data anywhere.

  5. Just wondering what long term studies,if any,are available as to the efficacy of the vaccine? Our kids were mandated to receive the Varicella vaccine, so no more chicken pox. Then oops, several years down the road, not so much, and they all had to get a booster. Granted, this is a series of three, but do you have any data that supports its continued effectiveness at say the twenty year mark?

  6. It is my understanding from being in the pediatric medical field that the side effects of this vaccine out weighs the vaccine. This vaccine only protects from certain types of cancers, which are not even prevelant in the U,S. There is quite a controversy and much looking into the effects of and side effects of this vaccine. as a Mom of 3 daughters I would not recommend this vaccine as it has many flaws . There have been documented deaths, arthritis and other documented side effects ..Also, how many doctors have actually done blood work to be sure the child has not already been infected with the HPV virus from this vaccine. Merck is in a battle over this vaccine. Parents just be aware.

  7. I’m skeptical of the vaccine. After my daughter had the vaccinations she ended up having premature oovarian failure. Although I was told the vaccine did not cause it. I’m not so sure. Because no doctor can tell me for sure what caused the ovarian failure except most likely an auto immune disorder, but they can’t be sure.

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