Newschannel 6 Exclusive: HPV Vaccine for Males

The Center for Disease Control calls it a "silent spreader".

Most who contract the Human Papilloma Virus are not aware they have it and end up spreading it to others unknowingly, making HPV the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S.

While the HPV vaccine, Gardasil has been recommended to young women since 2006, The FDA only recently approved it for men as well.

The recent approval has been followed with lots of controversy. Including, being linked to several cases of serious health risks and death.

We talked with parents and medical experts about the pros and cons of getting your child vaccinated for this STD.

"You get together with somebody and they may have only been with one other person.  But how many people were they with and you don't know what you're getting into and if you, like with the Gardasil, you're giving them that basis where they won't catch them or very few then you can stop it in the track," said mother of four, Cheryl Lafferty.

All of her children have been inoculated with the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine.

"I think it's a gift to them that they don't have to take the risk of getting something," Lafferty said.

According to the CDC there are about 40 types of HPV. While most HPV infections go away on their own, it can cause genital warts and warts in the upper respiratory tract.

"Of course those warts can spread. There can be anatomical problems that can lead to infertility.  Warts on the inside in the Cervix can cause cervical cancer or pre-cancer lesion," said pediatrician Dr. Daunne Peters.

In fact, it's the leading cause of cancer deaths among women around the world. Killing about 3,700 women in one year just in the U.S.

While most men who get HPV never develop any symptoms or health problems, they too are at risk.

It is estimated HPV is the source of 250,000 cases of genital warts and almost 7,500 cancers in males annually.

"They're spreading the virus and it's not their fault and they don't know they're doing it but if they came into contact with a partner they knew had it, it would be very beneficial to get checked, tested or treated," said Dr. Peters.

The FDA approved the vaccine for men ages 9 through 26 last October.

Dr. Peters says since that action, she's seen a significant increase is male patients. But not without parent concerns, many of which are similar to when the vaccine first came out for females four years ago.

"Of course every parent is concerned with the side effects generally side effects with vaccine are redness and swelling at the site and that's with any vaccine," said Wichita County Preventative Health Services Supervisor Teressa Stephenson.

As of January 31st, the CDC says there were nearly 16,000 reports of complications following Gardasil vaccination in the U.S.  Of these, eight percent were considered serious.

The vaccine has also been linked to 49 unconfirmed deaths and shows higher incidences of fainting and blood clots than other vaccines.

"I think you have to weigh the consequences.  Your child may have a fever when they have a shot, a bump in the leg or feel ill for a few days but what's the outcome if they actually have the disease vs. The shot," said Lafferty.

The HPV vaccine has not only raised health concerns, but also concerns about whether it would promote promiscuity.

Those we talked with say, that's not the case. 
"We're not promoting sexual activity.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of sexual activity out there in our young kids.  But it's not at all promoting.  We're trying to keep kids healthy and trying to get them vaccinated before sexual activity," said Dr. Peters.

Lafferty's oldest son was the first of her four kids to get inoculated with the vaccine. She had concerns over what he had been exposed to after leaving home for a short while as a teen.

In fact, she took him in for the shot long before it was even approved for men.

While she opted not to tell her younger children what the vaccine was for, she did discuss the topic with her older son.

"I told my 18 year old at the time when he got his, this is not a permission for you to go out and have sex.  It's not permission to experiment.  This is you having a shot, so when they time comes two months from now, 10 years from now, that happens, you are protected," Lafferty said.

"The recommendation is to try and get people before they're sexually active.  But certainly you can get the vaccine even if you've already contracted the disease or warts, you can still get it," Dr. Peters said.

Another concern many have with making the vaccine available to men, cost efficiency.  Data suggests it costs about $500 for the three injections and office visits.

While still not every insurance carrier covers the series, It is more widely accepted now that the FDA has approved the vaccine for males.

Lafferty says her policy did take care of the bulk of the cost. But even if it had not, there's no question she still would've opted to get the vaccine for her kids.

"I would absolutely positively get it for your child," she said.

"I believe every family needs to weigh the risks and benefits of the vaccine but there are only two vaccines available that can prevent cancer.  Hepatitis B and HPV so it's definitely something to consider," Stephenson said.

Most of the vaccines at the Wichita Falls Wichita County Public Health District go through the Vaccines for Children Program. That means the cost is on a sliding scale.  The policies are in place to start administering the vaccine to males but they are still waiting for the final approval.  Health district officials say they expect that to happen any day.

The same is true for Sheppard Air Force Base.  At this time, they do offer Gardasil for females who request it, but are waiting for the green light from higher authorities before they begin administering the vaccine to males.

We found out since Fort Sill started giving out the vaccine a little more than two years ago, it has ordered enough to provide the series to about 360 patients.

They have only given the vaccine to females and it is not administered to basic training soldiers as one of their initial entry vaccines, only upon request.

The HPV vaccine is on the government's recommended vaccination list for 2010, but it is not required.