According to a panel from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young boys and girls should be immunized against HPV; this would protect against future anal, mouth, and neck cancers resulting from sexual activity.
The panel said Tuesday that every male from nine-year-old boys to 26-year-old men should be vaccinated, and that every female from 11 to 26 should also get the vaccination as soon as possible.
The oddly high-priced ($300) vaccine has been the cause of some debate in Atlanta, where the panel met for their discussion on human papillomavirus.
Those causing controversy because of the recommendation are mainly parents: most guardians feel that children so young wouldn’t be having the sexual activity necessary to catch HPV.
The advisory committee feels differently, especially in light of recent studies.
Nearly 80 percent of all men and women in the U.S. will contract HPV and most will survive. HPV is the cause of over 15,000 female cases of cancer and 7,000 male cases of cancer; all of these cases are vaccine-preventable.
In addition, at least 3,900 of the 11,000 cervical cases reported in 2008 resulted in death. For the federal advisory panel, that’s too many cases not to take action.
Dr. William Schaffner, the chairman of the department of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said, “This is cancer, for Pete’s sake…A vaccine against cancer was the dream of our youth,” according to the Associated Press.
In order for kids to be vaccinated, parents would have to face up to the fact that their children could be practicing anal or oral sex (which has contributed mostly to head and neck cancers-perhaps because of its growing popularity).
The doubt by parents that their kids are sexually could be the reason why only 1 percent of boys are vaccinated against HPV currently.
Public ignorance on the topic, channeled through comments like that of Michele Bachmann, could be to blame for the low rate of vaccinations. Bachmann claimed that one child who received the HPV vaccine became mentally challenged.
Homosexual boys are more likely to spread the disease and get anal cancer, so vaccinating them would be much more cost-friendly. However, finding or deciding which boys are homosexual would be difficult, if not impossible.
Statistics from exit polling on U.S. Election Day 2008 suggests about 4 percent of the American population is homosexual, but that statistic could be inaccurate, because not all people who have same-sex relations identify as homosexuals.
The discussion of whether to vaccinate just homosexuals or just young boys in general is even more prevalent when financial factors are involved.
Dr. S. Michael Marcy, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California, said, “I’m constantly being told we don’t have the money. Well, we do have the money… if we don’t set those priorities, who will?”
The advisory panel voted 8 to 5 to advise the federal government that males 13 to 21 be vaccinated.