The nation's largest pediatrician group today released its new schedule of recommended childhood vaccinations. It made three major changes to its previous recommendations, after a federal advisory panel of experts reviewed recent evidence from vaccine studies.
The biggest change is the new recommendation that boys should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). Since 2006, the HPV vaccine has been recommended for girls, primarily to help prevent cervical cancer, and in 2009, the experts advised that boys "could" be given the shots, too.
The stronger wording in the new recommendations, that boys "should" be given the shots, came about because new data showed giving boys the vaccine can help lessen the odds of HPV-associated cancers in men and in women, said Dr. H. Cody Meissner, chief of pediatric infectious disease at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Meissner was part of the group of experts updating this year's recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics; the panel also included experts from the Centers for Disease and Prevention, which had previously recommended the HPV vaccine for boys.
The new vaccination schedules are published today (Feb. 1) in the journal Pediatrics.
Routine HPV vaccinations for boys
The new guidelines call for boys to get the first of the three doses of HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, the same age the shot is recommended for girls.
HPV vaccinations are also advised for young men ages 13 to 21 if they've not yet had all three shots. It may be given to boys as young as 9 and to men between 22 and 26.
Young people are encouraged to get all three shots, given over a 6-month period, before they become sexually active.
"Every parent likes to think their child is not sexually active in their early teen years," Meissner said. "But if you wait until they're sexually active, you miss the benefit of the vaccine."
The vaccine has been known to protect against genital warts in males and females, and recent evidence has shown it can prevent anal cancer in men and women. The HPV vaccine has also been shown to be protective against penile cancers, as well as head and neck cancers.