Not Just for Girls: Israeli Boys to Receive HPV Vaccinations Too

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The vaccine against HPV. In most cases, carriers don't know they're infected.Credit: Reuters

Beginning in the coming school year, the vaccine against human papillomavirus will be administered to boys in the eighth grade, as it is now given to girls, the Health Ministry announced Monday.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is best known as a cause of cervical cancer. However, there are actually some 200 forms of the virus, most of which are transmitted through sexual contact. As opposed to HIV, HPV is not transmitted by exposure to infected blood or semen, but rather via the skin, and therefore protected sex does not necessarily ensure the virus will not be transmitted.

In most cases, people who are HPV carriers will not know they have been infected, and their immune system will deal successfully with the virus. However, in some cases, infection from the virus presents as a small warts on the skin, known as condylomas. These can be removed in various ways. But in a small number of cases, the virus can cause cancer of the cervix, the vagina, rectum, penis or the large intestine.

The vaccine, which goes by the trade name Gardasil, will be administered by in two doses rather than three, as had been recommended in the past. The new recommendation is based on the latest medical research published in Israel and worldwide, the ministry also announced yesterday.

According to the Israeli Center for HPV, papilloma is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the Western world. With research in the United States showing that at any given moment, 26.8 percent of all people between the ages of 14 and 59 are carriers. By age 50, studies show, at least 80 percent of Americans have been infected by at least one type of the virus.

In 2012, the American Pediatric Society published a recommendation that both girls and boys be vaccinated against papilloma at age 11. The APS said it was recommending the step to prevent boys from infecting girls later on, and to reduce the rate of cancerous growths caused by the virus.

In 2014, vaccination for men and boys between the ages of 9 and 26 against four types of papilloma was added to Israel's so-called health basket – the drugs and medical treatments subsidized by the government. The previous year the papilloma vaccine was subsidized for girls in the eighth grade.

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