The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) released recommendations for boys and the HPV vaccine yesterday. In order to reduce risk of acquiring genital warts, in 2009 the ACIP advised that the vaccine may be administered to males aged 9 through 26, however they did not recommend the vaccine for routine use. The unanimous recommendation now states routine use of Gardasil for 9- 21-year-old males as worthwhile in preventing cancer.
Despite these expert recommendations, debate over the vaccine still exists, even for girls. Fear of short and long-term side effects and efficacy has framed the controversy over the drug, as well as mandate and cost concerns. In fact, the three recommended shots cost $100 each, making it the most expensive immunization currently in use; generic versions are not projected to enter the market until 2015 or later. However, The Affordable Care Act signed into law mandates that immunizations recommended by ACIP prior to September 2009 include no cost-sharing requirements. Recommendations made after 2009 (including the HPV vaccine for boys) will be required to be covered without cost-sharing in the next plan year that occurs one year after the date of the proposal. The group facing the largest barriers in receiving the vaccine include women 21 years and older, due to the fact that the Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening and Diagnostic Treatment (EPSDT) Benefit is for males and females under age 21. Vaccines covered by Medicaid are decided on a state by state basis (in 2009, only 28 states covered the HPV immunization for women).
Other debates surrounding the vaccine include promoting sexual activity of adolescents, and claims of its safety. The media and incorrect claims made by public figures continue these controversies, despite research proving otherwise. Providing accurate information on the vaccine in addition to the ACIP’s recommendations will help prevent deaths and unwarranted conditions from occurring. Currently, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease with 75% – 80% of females and males in the United States infected at some point in their lives.