What Parents Should Know About the HPV Vaccine for Boys

The Importance and Value of Vaccinating Boys Against HPV

HPV Vaccinations. Credit: Joe Raedle / Staff Getty Images

With the FDA approval of the HPV vaccine Gardasil's use in males, many parents of boys want to know more about the vaccine, why it is necessary, and what the potential risks of Gardasil may be.

Whether or not to vaccinate your son is a personal decision, but one that should be informed and based on medical facts. Researching reputable health information and talking to your family pediatrician will help you make the best decision for you child.

Why Is It Important to Vaccinate Boys with HPV Vaccine?

The FDA advisory has approved the use of Gardasil in males to prevent genital warts. Genital warts are flesh-toned or gray, raised or flat growths that appear on, in, and/or around the genitals. They can grow in clusters that resemble cauliflower, or they can appear singularly. In males, they can appear on the penis, scrotum, testicles, anus, groin, and thighs.

In most cases, there is no major health risk associated with genital warts; they do not cause cancer or even result from the same strain of HPV known to cause cancer. However, by vaccinating boys, the result would likely be:

Vaccinating your son may save someone else's daughter from possibly getting cervical cancer down the road — that is certainly one valid perspective, and there are others:

You also have to evaluate the psychological trauma that can be caused by having genital warts. They are unsightly and can be a major source of sexual shame and embarrassment. They require medical treatment to remove them (often multiple visits), and there is no cure for the condition.

In addition, vaccinating isn't just about genital warts.

Studies show an increased association between HPV and the development of many types of cancer, especially oral cancer. We know that anal cancer and penile cancer are also two types of cancer that are directly related to HPV, and the vaccine may provide protection against these associated HPV strains.

During clinical trials, Gardasil was 89% effective at preventing genital warts among study participants. It is less effective in those who have already been exposed to HPV. This is why the HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls at ages 11 or 12 years, so they are protected before they become sexually active and are potentially exposed to the virus. 

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that when administered during the preteen years, the HPV vaccine also produces a more robust immune response.

Is the HPV Vaccine Safe? What are the Side Effects?

In clinical trials involving boys and Gardasil, the vaccine proved to be a safe and effective prevention tool against HPV.

Commonly reported side effects included pain or discomfort at the injection site, fever, and headaches after being given the shot. No serious side effects were reported.

Those who are severely allergic to yeast or to other ingredients in Gardasil should not get the vaccine. Talk your son's pediatrician if you are concerned about an allergic reaction.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Common Questions About HPV and the HPV Vaccine. Accessed 27 March 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen. Accessed 27 March 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2010. Accessed 27 March 2016.

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