Should Your Son Get the HPV Vaccine?

I was thinking about oral sex today, and then my mind went to Michael Douglas, which is not where I wanted it to go. As much as I don’t like the association, I give him credit for raising awareness about HPV and men. Long thought to be just a women’s disease, therefore something unmentionable and relatively unimportant, Douglas’ statement his throat cancer was caused by HPV, which he contracted from performing oral sex on women, sheds new light on this virus and its vaccine.

Also read: When Should Your Daughter Get the HPV Vaccine

I love Douglas’ claim he contracted HPV from one particular woman. It is so very Hollywood of him. The truth is, over 70 million people in our country have HPV, there are many different strains, and for most, it doesn’t present a problem.

However, when it does rear its ugly head, it can cause cervical cancer, anogenital, oral and throat cancer and anogenital warts. There is also some evidence HPV is linked to cardiovascular disease.

🙂 Good News: There is a Vaccine that can prevent these cancers!! Medicine is amazing!

😥 Bad News: Only a third of girls and only 5% of boys who should receive the vaccine have. What?!?

Some Facts:
• HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease.

• The HPV vaccine is now given as a two dose series, starting at 11 -12 years old. If the first dose is given, after the age of 15, three doses are recommended. No one likes shots and they hurt a little bit. Sometimes, you can get a local reaction at the site of injection, and there are other rare side effects.

The CDC recommends boys and girls receive the vaccine before they become sexually active. Ideally, a kid will get the vaccine at about 11 or 12, which will give his or her body a chance to develop an immunity. People who missed the opportunity to get the vaccine in their preteen years, can still receive it. It is recommended for women through the age of 26 and men through the age of 21.

Interestingly, the debate over whether kids should receive the vaccine stems from the distaste over giving a child a vaccine to prevent an STD. But, if you don’t give it early enough, you can miss your chance. It is important to point out Hepatitis B is transmitted sexually (and through the sharing of needles) and we give it to infants without controversy. Just because it affects the liver and not the genitals (gasp! ew!) doesn’t mean its transmission mode is more proper.

All my kids, boys and girls, will be vaccinated. Just because I don’t want to think of them having sex of any kind, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.

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Photo by Heather Zachariah

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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