You know how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that girls, generally when they're around 11 or 12, get immunized against sexually transmitted forms of human papillomavirus, which causes most cervical and anal cancers, in addition to mouth and throat cancers? Today, the committee is mulling whether to extend its recommendation to boys and young men. (It has previously been optional and not expressly recommended for boys ages 9 through 26.)
I'm no medical expert, but considering the fact that HPV can be passed along from boys and to boys, it sounds like it makes a lot of sense (and seems only fair) for boys to be routinely vaccinated as well. Doctors say vaccinating people of both genders will help protect everyone, saving thousands upon thousands of lives.
So, if it's so great, why wasn't universal vaccination -- for both boys and girls -- recommended before now? Well, one reason appears to be that some of its benefits were not known when the vaccine was initially approved for girls. New studies have found new benefits: For example, in addition to lowering the cancer rate, the HPV vaccine is now shown to be highly effective in preventing genital warts in men.
There's also been some push-back from parents -- again, of children of both genders -- about inoculating their kids against something that becomes an issue only after they become sexually active. In a way, I can understand their hesitation. But as individuals and as a society, we should realize that most kids do, eventually, grow into sexually active adults. And while it's difficult to imagine our children as eventual sexual beings, if we can do something now to ensure that their future sexual encounters are safe and healthy -- and to cut down on their rate of life-threatening cancers -- doesn't it make a whole lot of sense to do it?
Do you think boys and girls should be routinely vaccinated against HPV?
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