Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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HPV shots for boys

In case you missed it: A panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended that boys 11 and up get the vaccine that protects against human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is an extremely common sexually transmitted disease and can lead to cervical and anal cancer. There’s also mounting evidence that it can cause throat cancer, according to reports in The New York Times and elsewhere. It’s also been linked to cancers of the vulva, penis, head and neck, the CDC says. And, it causes genital warts.

In 2006, the advisory panel recommended that girls 11 and up start getting the vaccine, which comes in three doses. But fewer than half of teen girls have gotten the shots, the CDC said this summer. (Boys have been allowed to get the vaccine as well, but fewer than 1 percent have, The New York Times has reported.)

For several years, controversy has swirled around the suggestion that pre-teens should be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease. The idea makes some people squeamish and outrages others. There’s been particular resistance to legislative efforts to mandate that girls get vaccinated. (Virginia mandates it, sort of — parents are allowed to opt their daughters out.)

The CDC’s position emphasizes the medical benefit of the shots, which the CDC says are most effective if given before the onset of sexual activity (and thus before exposure to HPV). “The HPV vaccine is a strong weapon in cancer prevention,” the agency’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said on

You can read a detailed story about the new recommendation in The New York Times here:

You can read a CDC press briefing about the recommendation here:

To learn more about the controversy surrounding the vaccine, try this:

And as always, if you have questions, talk to your physician or your child’s pediatrician for more insights.