Panel recommends HPV vaccine for men up to age 26

A vaccine against cervical and other cancers should be recommended for both men and women up to age 26, a U.S. government advisory panel decided Wednesday.

The vaccine protects against HPV, a virus that is commonly spread through sex and can cause certain cancers and genital warts.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ vote in Atlanta raises the recommended vaccination age for men from 21 to 26, making it the same as the existing recommendation for women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention almost always accepts the panel’s recommendations and uses them as guidance for U.S. doctors.

The HPV vaccine is usually given to 11- and 12-year olds, to protect them before their first exposure to sexually transmitted viruses.

Women as old as 26 had been recommended to get a “catch-up” vaccination if they missed the shots in pre-adolescence. For men, the catch-up recommendation had applied only up to age 21, because research indicates males tend to be exposed to sexually-transmitted viruses earlier.

The panel decided Wednesday to equalize the age recommendations to make it easier for doctors.