ALISYN CAMEROTA: A government health panel already recommends young girls get the HPV vaccine because that virus can lead to cancer. Well, now a federal committee of the CDC is saying that boys should get the vaccine as well, but not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Joining us for a standoff debate is director of the Gynocological Cancer Prevention Research Group at the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, Dr. Diane Harper, and the chairman of the Department of Preventative Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. William Shaffner. Thanks so much for being here, both of you. Dr. Harper, I want to begin with you. You don’t necessarily support the idea of boys as young as 11 and 12 getting this vaccine. Why not?
DR. DIANE HARPER: That’s right, Alisyn. I think that we don’t know enough about what happens with the vaccine. We know for sure that the antibody titers that provide protection and give the efficacy of the vaccine waning two to three years earlier than they do for girls. In the studies that we did with the Gardasil vaccine in boys, what we found is that 38 percent, or nearly two-fifths of boys, lost all detectable titers to HPV-18, which is one of the two cancer-causing types in the vaccine. So that is a concern. The other concern that we have is that you have to have three doses in order to be effective. Cervarix requires only one does to be effective. And we know with Gardasil, with the three doses, that there have been very poor compliance in being able to get all three —
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Ah-hah. That sounds important. Dr. Shaffner, I want to bring you in. It sounds as though boys may think they are protected. In other words, if they haven’t gotten some of the booster shots or if the drug efficacy wears off, and they might not be as safe as they would had they not gotten the vaccine, they might not practice as safe sex. What’s your response to that?
DR. WILLIAM SHAFFNER: Well, you realize this is also a coordinated effort of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, so that the general notion is that it’s time to do this. There have been lots of studies of whether prevention activity, such as vaccines with Hepatitis B affected teenagers’ sexual behavior, and there was no evidence of that. So I think that’s not the concern. We always like to know more information when we start vaccinating. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder —
ALISYN CAMEROTA: But, Dr. Shaffner, what about the idea that — what Dr. Harper was just saying, that it wears off sooner than does it does for girls and that it may only last three years. Is that a concern —
DR. WILLIAM SHAFFNER: It’s a point of interest, because we all get our every-10-years tetanus shots. We may indeed discover that down the road, we should get boosters with the HPV vaccine also; that would be not surprising.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Dr. Harper, obviously there have been some people who have raised concerns about boys getting this vaccine so early. We know that in California, the governor just signed something saying that the girls don’t need to get parental consent to have this vaccine. Does any of that concern you?
DR. DIANE HARPER: Well, I think the value of HPV vaccines, both for Cervarix and for Gardasil, is that it helps prevent abnormal pap smears. And the thought of mandating this or providing this vaccine sub-terra to girls without parental permission and without discussion in the family as to whether the girl wishes to have vaccination as an additional optional part of her cervical cancer prevention really is not an appropriate thing for public health officials to be doing.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: And I know that your point is that girls need to keep getting pap smears; that is one of the best ways to guard against cervical cancer. Dr. Diane Harper, Dr. William Shaffner, thanks so much for coming for the debate and to raise awareness about all of this. We appreciate it.
DR. DIANE HARPER: Thank you, Alisyn.