Based on the results of a recent New England Journal of Medicine study, an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that the HPV vaccine (marketed as Gardasil) be given to boys and young men in addition to girls and young women. The study showed that the HPV vaccine was able to reduce the rates of anal cancer among men, and it is thought to be able to also reduce future transmission to women. In the NEJM article, the investigators evaluated 602 healthy men who either received the HPV vaccine or placebo. In the men who had received the HPV vaccine, the rate of developing anal intraepithelial neoplasia was reduced by almost 75%. In addition, the risk of developing long lasting and persistent anal infection with HPV was reduced by almost 95%. This new recommendation will likely add to the controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine. Recently, several erroneous statements were made during a Republican national debate that caused the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. O Marion Burton, to release the following statement regarding the HPV vaccine:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record”.
In Texas, where the HPV vaccine was at one point mandated by law to be given to young women, there was a large backlash against this legislation and it was eventually overturned. The HPV vaccine is very effective and has been shown to dramatically reduce the cervical cancer rate in women. In addition, we have recently discussed the finding that the human papillomavirus is associated with increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease among women. It has been suggested that use of the HPV vaccine could possibly decrease this risk. Therefore, the new findings add to the benefits that have been associated with the HPV vaccine. Despite this, there will likely continue to be controversy surrounding this important vaccine.
The following PBSNewsHour YouTube video gives a good summary of the current state of affairs:
Joel M. Plaefsky et al. “HPV Vaccine against Anal HPV Infection and Anal Intraepithelial Neoplasia” New England Journal of Medicine 2011; 365:1576-1585