UPDATE: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-0 on Tuesday to recommend that all boys get the HPV vaccine at ages 11 and 12.
(WASHINGTON) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) planned meeting Tuesday morning to decide whether the HPV vaccine should be recommended for all males ages 9 to 26 has created a firestorm among medical experts, most of whom seem to be rooting for the committee to recommend that all boys within the age group get the vaccine.
Still, some are shaking their heads at the lack of evidence to suggest that the vaccine even works for boys.
The HPV vaccines -- commonly known as Cervarix and Gardasil -- are currently recommended for girls ages 9 to 26. Both vaccines have been shown to prevent cervical cancers, with Gardisil also preventing vaginal, vulva and anal cancers. Some studies also suggest that the vaccine could protect against penis, head, neck and throat cancers. Gardasil, shown to also protect against genital warts, is the only vaccine of the two that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for boys.
The strongest data of male HPV prevention is limited to men with compromised immunity and men who have sex with other men. Some parents may argue that the vaccinating their sons would encourage promiscuous behavior. But medical experts say that isolating the vaccine to just some segments of the population will only exacerbate that way of thinking.
“Research has shown that parents are more enthusiastic regarding universal recommendations rather than targeting "at risk" groups,” said Dr. Lawrence Stanberry, pediatrician-in-chief at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. “Recommending universal immunization for girls and making the recommendation for boys permissive sends parents mixed messages.”
According to William Muraskin, professor in the department of urban studies at Queens College, one of the challenges is identifying who may benefit from the vaccine.
“The HPV vaccine if given before males become sexually active will also protect those who will become homosexual or bisexual,” said Muraskin. "Routinely vaccinating the entire cohort of young males protects an important sub-group that otherwise will be at significant risk but cannot be identified until it is too late.”
But some experts say the data showing long-term benefit to both homosexual and heterosexual males is slim.
“It is misguided to think that all boys will gain any health benefit from HPV vaccination,” said Diane Harper, Director, Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri.
Harper said the vaccine only provides absolute protection against cervical cancer and, “mass vaccination for the prevention of the other HPV associated cancers puts large numbers of people at risk for harms from vaccination compared to both the personal and public health risk of anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers.”
Studies have also only shown a nearly 3-year window of protection, Harper said.
“The benefit of HPV vaccination in preventing these cancers which develop much later in life and require vaccination efficacy to last much longer is not proven,” she said.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio