GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Health officials are now pushing for young males ages nine to 26 to get the HPV vaccine known as Gardasil, a vaccine that for years has been for women only.
In June 2006, Gardasil hit the market as the first cervical cancer vaccine.
The Gardasil vaccine prevents against four types of HPV. Young women, ages nine to 26, learned for the first time that through sexual contact, they could be in danger of getting HPV. So many rushed to get the Gardasil vaccine.
“My grandma and my aunt encouraged me to get them and said it would help me and my body to grow better,” says Marivel Perez, a high school freshman.
But after four years and a number of commercials promoting the HPV vaccine, studies show fewer women are getting or finishing the series of three shots.
“My mom wanted me to get it, but we just never did I guess,” says Freshman Julia Lucero.
And now new research shows oral cancer rates have more than doubled since 1973. And more than half of all reported cases are related to HPV.
Making oral sex a major risk factor for both women and men. Something many are unaware of.
“Um, no. I do not have an idea of what HPV is,” says high school freshman Matt Prinster.
Daniel Asif, another freshman, says, “I have no idea. Nope.”
And many also don't know that a year ago the FDA approved the HPV vaccine for young males ages nine to 26. “Certainly the vaccine is a great way to protect you against contracting HPV. Abstinence is also another way, and if someone chooses to be sexually active, the use of condoms may lower their risk of getting HPV," says Karen Martsolf, spokesperson for Mesa County Health Department.
And if you're considering the HPV vaccine, now might be the time to do it. The Health Department is offering the vaccine to young men and women for free thanks to a grant. “This vaccine should be administered prior to the male or female's first sexual contact,” says Martsolf.
As for young teens, they may not know exactly what HPV is, but many get the gist. “They say that it protects you a lot from more viruses so I’m happy I can't get those viruses,” says Perez.
According to the OCF, oral cancer kills about one person every hour and only half of those affected survive more than five years after their diagnosis.