HPV Vaccine for Boys

More than 150 related viruses are considered to be human papillomavirus (HPV). Different types of HPV cause different problems. Some of the HPV types that are sexually transmitted are known to cause cancer in women, including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. In men, some HPV types can cause penile cancer. And some HPV types can cause head and neck cancers. Genital warts are also caused by the HPV virus.

Today, two HPV vaccines can protect against certain types of HPV. At first, they were recommended for girls and young women, but one of the vaccines has also been approved for use in boys and young men.

About the HPV vaccine

The two FDA-approved vaccines are Gardasil and Cervarix. Each is given in 3 doses over the course of 6 months. Both work against two types of HPV- types 16 and 18. These 2 types are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV (6 and 11) known to cause the vast majority of genital warts. Of the two vaccines, only Gardasil is approved for use in boys and young men.

Benefits of vaccinating boys

Because men can become infected with HPV, boys can benefit from getting the Gardasil vaccine. It can prevent genital warts in males as well as in females. It may also protect men from anal, penile, and head and neck cancers. And although males are not at risk for cervical cancer, they can transmit HPV to their partners. Vaccinating boys and young men may help reduce the rate of infection and, as a result, the rate of cervical cancer.

It's recommended that Gardasil be given before the first sexual contact--before a young man has been infected with HPV. Because the virus does not always produce noticeable symptoms, it's hard to know whether infection has occurred, making the effectiveness of the vaccine uncertain once a person has become sexually active.

Safety of the HPV vaccines

The HPV vaccines were carefully tested before they were approved for use. The vaccines are considered safe and have not caused any serious side effects or complications. Some mild side effects may occur. These include nausea, fever, dizziness, and tenderness at the injection site.

When should the vaccine be given?

The Gardasil vaccine is approved for boys and men who are between 9 and 26 years old. It is recommended for use to help prevent warts but not yet as a way to prevent HPV-related cancers. By giving the vaccine at a younger age, boys have more time to develop antibodies to HPV before they become sexually active.  

How the vaccines are given

Both HPV vaccines are given in 3 doses. After the first shot is given, the second shot follows 1 to 2 months later. The third and final shot should be given six months after the date of the first dose.

Deciding to get the Gardasil vaccine

Parents of young boys should discuss the HPV vaccine with their sons' doctor and decide if it's something they want to do. Parents may also want to check with their insurance provider to see if Gardasil is covered.