Boys should routinely get a series of shots against a virus that causes several different kinds of cancer, federal advisers said on Tuesday.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to approve routine vaccination of boys 11 or 12 years old with three doses of the human papillomavirus or HPV vaccine, both to protect women and to protect the boys themselves.
Preteen girls are already supposed to get the vaccine, although it’s controversial and has even become a political issue, with Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann making some colorful comments about questionable side effects of the vaccine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved the vaccine, made by Merck, for boys. The advisory committee, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helps decide which vaccines people should get and when. With committee approval, insurers will usually cover an immunization and the vaccine can also be included in free government programs.
It has been a struggle to get girls vaccinated. CDC says that only 49 percent of U.S. girls who should get the vaccine have received the first dose, and only 32 percent have received all three doses.
HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, which despite screening kills 4,000 U.S. women a year. It also causes head and neck cancer, and cancerds of the penis and anus. The virus is contagious and transmitted by direct contact.