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HPV Vaccine Gains Popularity Among Boys

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A vaccine initially approved for girls to prevent cervical cancer is now gaining popularity with boys.

"I'm seeing generally an increase in the number of boys and the number of parents who are requesting the shot, requesting information about the HPV vaccine," says Dr. Jonathan Pletcher, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children's Hospital. "They'll say, 'I'll do it, I'll do it if it'll protect somebody I care about.'"

"We have definitely seen an increase in males coming into the clinic to get Gardasil," says Sharon Silvestri, RN, of the Allegheny County Health Department.

On this late summer day, the county health department is immunizing two girls and two boys with Gardasil.

"We just felt that any protection, any vaccines to protect the kids that were available to us, that we would go ahead and seize that opportunity and have them," says Natalie Neft of Coraopolis who brought her son and daughter in.

It's part of their back-to-school shots, though it's not required for school. As for the reasons why -- for these young boys, preventing cancer is not what comes to mind.

"So I don't get the flu, and so I don't get the chicken pox," says Jorell Oxendine of McKees Rocks.

"It hurt, but it's worth it," says Damien Neft of Coraopolis.

Cancer of the cervix, or the opening of the womb, is what the vaccine is supposed to prevent. It's caused by a virus that can affect women and men.

In 2009, it was FDA approved for boys and men ages 9 to 26. The American Academy of Pediatrics includes the $400 three-shot series on the list of recommended vaccines for children and teens. The idea is to prevent infection and disease later in life.

"Preventing cervical cancer, and preventing cancer of the penis, and anal cancer as well, all of which are triggered by the HPV virus," explains Dr. Pletcher.

"Men can carry this virus and give it to women, so it's very important for both males and females to be protected," says Sharon Silvestri.

Because of increased demand, community pediatricians have asked the health department for any spare supplies.

"They need vaccine, because they've seen an increase in males coming into their clinic," Silvestri says.


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