According to the New York Times, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a set of recommendations for administering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to boys and men. These recommendations will have a wide impact, as both private health insurance companies and Medicaid usually follow suit and offer vaccines as a result of this panel’s recommendations.
The recommendation is that boys ages 11 and 12 should receive vaccine, which was first approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration in June 2006 to protect against 4 strains of HPV. Additionally, the vaccine has been recommended to males aged 13 to 21 who have not received the full three-part vaccine as well as boys as young as 9 and men between 22 and 26.
This is great news as early vaccination is critical to securing the HPV vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing cancers for both men and women.
Why is early vaccination key?
HPV, which is spread through skin-to-skin contact, particularly during sexual contact, is widespread, easy to contract and can lead to a very serious cancer diagnosis. There are no cures or treatments for HPV, and often no symptoms, which increases one’s likelihood of spreading the virus. Also, we know that while most high school freshman have not become sexually active, by the time they graduate 7 in 10 and 44% of Latinas will have had sexual intercourse. Therefore, getting vaccinated before beginning sexual activity is absolutely vital.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, as 70-80% of all men and women will be infected in their lifetime. Past studies have shown that even when certain precautions are taken, such as wearing a condom, HPV can still spread from partner to partner through the skin to skin contact.
HPV is known to cause 15,000 cases of cancer for women and 7,500 cases for men annually. The most common cancers are cervical for women and penile, anal and oral for men. Also, there has been more research recently into the growing rates of throat and mouth cancers associated with HPV as a result of exposure through oral sex.
Cervical cancer is of great concern to Latinas. Latest figures show that annually about 12,000 women are diagnosed with and 4,000 women die of cervical cancer. The rates for Latina women being nearly double the rates for non-Latina white women. Latinas suffer the highest rates of cervical cancer and the second highest mortality rate from the disease. Since women most often contract HPV through vaginal sex with men, greater male vaccination rates could lower the rate of HPV infection and, in turn, cervical cancer for women.
Despite the fact that ACIP recommendations are usually implemented, it is unclear whether they will increase access to the vaccine for boys and young men. While the HPV vaccine is covered by Medicaid, the Vaccine for Children program as well as private health insurance companies, out-of-pocket costs and other economic barriers make the vaccine inaccessible. Each round costs about $130, which is out of reach for many people, including Latinas and their families. Since 2006, efforts by individual states to provide the vaccine at schools have mostly failed. The new recommendations only go as far as access to the vaccine.
For more information from NLIRH about cervical cancer, click on the links: