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From St Louis Children's Hospital Media Affairs, written by  Pam McGrath,  posted May 21, 2012

St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s infectious disease specialists are urging pediatricians to strongly recommend to parents of boys 11 and older that their sons receive the three-dose vaccine for the human papillomavirus.

This advice supports recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at its meeting last October, as well as new guidelines published in February by the American Academy of Pediatrics in its journal, Pediatrics.

“This is the first vaccine that actually protects people against cancer. The four strains of the HPV vaccine guards against approximately 90 percent of all cervical, penile and anal cancers, in addition to some oropharyngeal cancers.

It also is protective against 90 percent of genital warts—for some young adults, a psychologically damaging condition,” says Alexis Elward, MD, Washington University infectious disease specialist and  medical director of infection control at St Louis Children's Hospital.

 “Approximately 7,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with anal, penile, and head and neck cancers annually, and those are increasing. The annual incidence of anal cancers is rising at approximately 3 percent and head and neck cancers at about 1 percent.”

Since 2006, the HPV vaccine has been available and recommended for girls and young women aged 12-26. Despite efforts to encourage its use, however, statistics show that only 30 percent of eligible females have completed the three-dose vaccine series.

“Researchers were able to prove the efficacy of the vaccine against cervical cancer in women more quickly than the cancers in men, which led to the initial recommendation for its use in women,” explains Dr. Elward.

“The reasoning was that a high rate of vaccination in women would help guard men as well. However, that high vaccination rate was not achieved, which leaves a large percentage of men and women vulnerable to HPV and eventually developing these cancers.”

One of the barriers for parents regarding the vaccine may be their discomfort thinking about their children becoming sexually active at an early age. Dr. Elward counters that hesitation with the positive influence parents can have on their children’s future.

“At 11 and 12, children are becoming more independent and beginning to make their own choices. The time parents have to influence their children is growing shorter,” she says. “Parents need to think of the HPV vaccine as something they can do right now that will protect their children for decades to come. It’s an amazing opportunity for them to help guarantee their children’s health.”

She adds, “Parents also need to take into account that they don’t know what choices their sons will make in the future. Men who have sex with men and then become HIV infected are at higher risk of these viruses progressing to cancer. Parents have a golden opportunity to prevent this from occurring.”

And pediatricians have a golden opportunity to influence the decisions made by their patients’ parents. “We know that in the U.S. people place a lot of trust in their primary care physician. So if their primary care doctor recommends this vaccine and advocates for it, chances are parents will accept the vaccine,” says Dr. Elward.

The HPV vaccine requires three doses. The minimum interval between doses one and two is 4 weeks. The dose should be given on a 0 month, 1-2 month and 6 month schedule.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s informational brochure for parents, The Importance of Being Immunized, has been updated to include the 2012 recommendations.

Contact Children’s Direct at 800.678.HELP (4357) to request copies for your office.
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Copyright 2015 Washington University School of Medicine