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HPV Vaccine for Boys

What Parents Should Know About the HPV Vaccine for Boys


Updated April 16, 2014

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 that come with Gardasil.

Whether or not to vaccinate your son is a personal decision, but one that should be informed and based on the medical facts. Researching reputable health information online 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:

  • less spreading of HPV
  • hopefully, fewer cases of cervical cancer in women
  • perhaps, a decrease in other types of cancer

Vaccinate your son to save someone else's daughter from possibly getting cervical cancer down the road -- that is certainly one valid perspective. But 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.

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.

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

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 it is important to vaccinate girls and boys when they are young, before they become sexually active and are potentially exposed to the virus.

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.


CDC. Common Questions About HPV and the HPV Vaccine. August 2007. Accessed September 2009.

CDC. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2006. Genital Warts. Februry 2009. Accessed September 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2006/genital-warts.htm.

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