HPV Vaccine Debate Expands to Include Boys
What happened: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States; at least half of sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives. In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines that recommend the HPV vaccine for boys between ages 11 and 21 as well as girls between ages 11 and 26. The American Academy of Pediatrics joined in the CDC's recommendation that boys be routinely vaccinated against HPV, citing research that states the vaccine may protect boys against cancers of the penis and rectum, as well as head and neck cancers that are believed to be caused by HPV. A factor in the new recommendation was the CDC statistic, also released this year, that just under half of girls had received even one of the three-part vaccine against the virus, which can cause cervical cancer.
Why it's controversial: At age 11, it's hard to imagine your child's sexual future, let alone plan for it. Some parents put it even more bluntly: shouldn't we be teaching abstinence rather than planning for promiscuity? On the other hand, what parent doesn't want to protect their child from a deadly disease? The debate took on further weight this year when Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry was challenged to defend his 2007 executive order requiring girls to receive the vaccine in Texas (the order was later rescinded). A swirl of misinformation about the safety of the vaccine followed, only confusing and upsetting parents more.
How it impacted your life: For parents of boys, the new recommendations brought you into a debate that you'd previously been able to ignore. And for all parents, the HPV debate became the main character in the two perennial issues of vaccine safety and sexuality.