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Controversy over HPV vaccination: is it also recommended for boys?
Human papilloma viruses (HPV) are pathogens that can cause inflammation and skin changes, but in the worst case can also cause cancer. Girls have long been recommended to be vaccinated against the dangerous viruses. Experts argue about whether it is also advisable for boys.
HP viruses can cause cervical cancer
Human papilloma viruses (HP viruses or HPV) are pathogens, which mostly get into the skin or mucous membrane through sexual intercourse. The viruses can also be transmitted through oral sex, as scientists reported a few months ago in the journal "JAMA Oncology". In most cases, an infection goes unnoticed and heals itself. However, some of the viruses also persist, causing cell changes from which a malignant tumor can develop over time. Since HPV can cause cervical cancer, among other things, vaccination against the viruses is relatively common among girls and young women. According to some experts, it is also effective for boys. Not everyone sees it that way.
Intense debate about HPV vaccination
An intense debate about HPV vaccination has now sparked among experts. The long-time chairman of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Harald zur Hausen, has been committed to vaccinating both sexes for a long time. He is considered the spiritual father of the vaccine and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his spectacular discovery in 2008. "I think it makes sense to vaccinate boys between 9 and 14 years of age before the onset of sexual activity," said the doctor, according to a report by the dpa news agency. The vaccination protects sexual partners from infecting each other.
Institute involved in sales of the vaccine
According to zur Hausen, cancer screening is still recommended, but the time between the examinations could possibly be extended in the future. "It has already been proven that vaccination can prevent the development of precancerous stages of the cervix." In addition, two of the three available vaccines also protected against genital warts. Nevertheless, only every second girl is vaccinated in some regions of Germany. Nationwide, the vaccination recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) is administered to about a third of the girls. Zur Hausen recently said in an interview with the DKFZ, which as co-patent holder is involved in the sales of the vaccine: “A very sad result! The main reason for this is certainly that doctors, medical staff and health politicians, but also the children and their teachers and parents are not sufficiently informed about the very high effectiveness and safety of HPV vaccination. ”
Critics complain about high costs
However, critics criticize the high costs. According to the agency's announcement, a full HPV vaccination protection in Germany - several spades are required - currently comes to between 320 and 480 euros. So far, the health insurance companies only cover the costs for girls. Instead, the Munich pediatrician Martin Hirte criticized: "HPV vaccination causes immense costs for our healthcare system that have to be saved elsewhere, for example for hospital staff." classifies. There could also be strong side effects such as chronic pain and poor circulation. According to Hausen, there is only a violent allergic reaction to around 100,000 doses of vaccine.
Anal cancer in men who have sex with men has spread
Even though it has been shown that human papilloma viruses cause damage to the cervix, some experts doubt that widespread vaccination is the right way to fight cancer. "Vaccinations are only one aspect of disease prevention and are not always the cheapest, gentlest and most effective," said Hirte, who has published a book on HPV vaccination. In it he describes the vaccination of boys as "expensive and ineffective". The chairman of STIKO, Jan Leidel, sees it differently: "We now know that HPV can not only cause cervical cancer, but also anal cancer, penile cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer and cancers of the mouth and throat." It is said that anal cancer in men who have sex with men is almost as common as cervical cancer in women. STIKO has been recommending the Pikser for girls since 2007, but the Commission has not yet recommended a boy. According to the information, a working group is dealing with the topic. (ad)