A federal advisory committee voted today to recommend that 11- and 12-year-old boys be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, no matter what Michele Bachmann makes up about the shot causing "mental retardation." The New York Times reports that the decision "is likely to transform the use of the HPV vaccine, since most private insurers pay for vaccines once the committee recommends them for routine use." As the most widespread sexually transmitted disease, HPV is known to cause cervical cancer in women, but new research shows that men are increasingly at risk for various cancers as well. The vaccination has been a ridiculous lightning rod for moral panic and slut-shaming, and now that boys are involved it's bound to get worse (and homophobic!):
The vaccine has been controversial because the disease it prevents results from sexual activity, and that controversy is likely to intensify since many of the cancers in men result from homosexual sex. The HPV vaccine became a source of contention among Republican presidential candidates after some candidates criticized Gov. Rick Perry of Texas for trying to require that girls in his state be vaccinated.
Parents of boys face some uncomfortable realities when choosing whether to have their child vaccinated. The burden of disease in males results mostly from oral or anal sex, but vaccinating boys will also benefit female partners since cervical cancer in women results mostly from vaginal sex with infected males.
"This is cancer, for Pete's sake," said one doctor, justifiably flabbergasted. "A vaccine against cancer was the dream of our youth."
If only it were that simple. Meanwhile, the next Republican debate might've just gotten a whole lot more medical.