FDA panel: Gardasil okay for boys, too

September 10, 2009

Gardasil, the human papillomavirus vaccine approved for females, may soon be approved for males as well.

Gardasil, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine approved for females, may soon be approved for males as well.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel gave its thumbs up for broadening the HPV recommendation, from girls and women age 9 to 26 to include boys and men 9 to 26 as well. This isn’t an approval but it’s close: FDA usually agrees with its advisory committees.

The HPV vaccine of Merck’s is touted as an ersatz cervical cancer vaccine, since eliminating HPV (technically four strains of the virus) plummets the chances of a woman having cervical cancer. It’s become controversial due to a push to immunize girls before they become sexually active (and thus susceptible to HPV): immunizing them, a few critics say, is akin to giving them permission for intercourse.

Most all girls and women who contract HPV do so via sexual contact with a male. Reducing that risk could enlarge the herd immunity effect against HPV. That wasn’t a benefit under consideration, though: the advisory committee stuck with primary benefits to the male immunizees. These include a lowered risk (89% effective) of genital warts, and a lowering of the already low chances for penile or anal cancer.