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The HPV Vaccine Is Not Just for Women; Everything You Should Know About the New Recommendation

There are over 150 types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and it is the “most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States,” U.S. News reports. American Cancer Society notes that around 14 million people become infected with HPV every year, although most times individuals are unaware they have the infection as it does not cause any health problems and later clears on its own. However, some types of HPV can cause cancers or genital warts.

The vaccination works best when given to an individual who is young, and The American Cancer Society “recommends that girls and boys begin getting the vaccine series at age 11 or 12.” This vaccine (which experts generally agree is safe) became available in 2006, can reduce cases of HPV-related cervical cancer, anal cancer, and other cancers, as well as genital warts, but it is often thought of as a girls-only vaccination, with many health campaigns often only appealing to young women.

Dr. Ian Banks of Men’s Health Forum has been vocal about how the HPV vaccine should be for both men and women. According to Vaccines Today, Dr. Banks said: “It’s an inequality issue. It’s not just that by vaccination [vaccinating] boys we may protect women — in the way we vaccinate mothers to protect newborns — it prevents cancer in men. We need to view HPV as not just an issue for girls but an issue for boys too.”

There has also been inequality with regard to the recommended age for young men. That was until 2019 when NBC News notes that a government advisory panel decided that the vaccine should be recommended for both women and men up to age 26. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted that the recommended vaccination age for men should increase from age 21 to 26—previously only women were recommended for the vaccine up to age 26. It was initially limited to age 21 for men because NBC News reports that research has shown men are often “exposed to sexually-transmitted viruses earlier.” However, this new decision could be just what was needed to accept that HPV-related diseases affect not only girls but boys, too!

[Image via Shutterstock]

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