“Why are we giving a vaccine against cervical cancer to young boys who don’t even have an uterus?!”
A lot of anti-vaccine activists ask this question, apparently not having done their homework. Then again, denialists have a tendency to not really understand the scientific basis of what they are rejecting, so this level of ignorance is sadly not unusual. Here are the three main reasons why boys are getting vaccinated against HPV.
Reason 1: It protects males from other forms of cancer cause by HPV.
HPV does not only cause cervical cancer, but some strains can cause other forms of cancer, such as neck and head cancer. By vaccinating boys against HPV, they are less likely to get these forms of cancers.
Reason 2: It protects males from getting genital and anal warts.
Some strains of HPV can also cause painful and ugly warts in the genital or anal area. This is not deadly, but costly and has a psychological toll for the patient. Getting vaccinated with an HPV vaccine that contains proteins from the strains that cause these warts, boys will also be protected.
Reason 3: It reduces the spread of HPV to females.
Males can spread HPV to females during intercourse. So if more guys have been vaccinated against HPV, fewer guys will spread HPV to females and fewer females will become infected and risk developing cervical cancer and anal and genital warts.
References and Further Reading
Hall, H. (2011). HPV Vaccine for Boys. Science-Based Medicine. Accessed: 2012-01-04.
Harris, G. (2011). Panel Endorses HPV Vaccine for Boys of 11. The New York Times. Accessed: 2012-01-04.
Offit, P. A. & Moser, C. A., (2011). Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction. New York. Colombia University Press.