Nightly News | October 25, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We have two big health stories in the news tonight, one involving the flu shot we're all urged to get this time of year. The other, and perhaps more important for a lot of families, is a new recommendation that all boys in this country, as young as ages nine and up, get inoculated against HPV , the virus that can cause cervical cancer in women and is spread by sexual activity. HPV , as you know, has been in the news a lot lately. It's a dicey topic because of its lethal consequences and because preventing it involves parents working with their doctors, acting on behalf of their children. And we've already seen some politicians get involved, as well. So we want to begin here tonight with our chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman . Nancy , good evening.
Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN reporting: Good evening, Brian . We're talking about human papillomavirus, and as you said, a commonly sexually transmitted disease that is escalating in the United States . In fact, at least 50 million Americans are expected to be exposed to this in their lifetimes, and because of that, the vaccine, HPV , has been around to protect boys since 2009 , but there have really been no firm guidelines about boys until today. Millions of girls have already received the HPV vaccine , and today the Centers for Disease Control expanded those same recommendations to include boys. Under guidelines approved today, the CDC recommends all boys 11 to 12 years old be vaccinated, three doses over the course of six months, to prevent HPV and HPV -related diseases. Why so early? The vaccine needs to be given before a young person becomes sexually active to give the body a chance to build antibodies to fight HPV if a person is exposed. Each year there are 18,000 HPV -related cancers in women, mostly cervical cancers, and 7,000 HPV -related cancers in men. Last month the virus was linked to mouth and throat cancers, and in a report released just yesterday,
new research links HPV to the number one killer of women: cardiovascular disease . The HPV vaccine has been approved for boys since 2009 without any firm recommendations from the government, but many pediatricians at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester have recommended parents get their girls and boys vaccinated. Dr. DARSHAK SANGHAVI ( Associate Professor , University of Massachusetts Medical School ): This is a vaccine that can prevent cancer. It's one of the first ones that's going to be able to do that, and that's why I really think that we should welcome this with enthusiasm.
SNYDERMAN: One of the reasons that parents have backed away from this vaccine in the past is that because -- is because it combines three shots spaced out over several months, and sometimes that means compliance is not so good. And insurance companies have backed away from covering it. But the hope today is that since the CDC has recommended this, it's going to be one step forward, Brian , to getting our kids inoculated and having insurance coverage so parents don't have to bear the cost.
WILLIAMS: It's a big development. Nancy , thank you for that.