This NYT article discusses people’s reactions to the HPV vaccine being made available for boys, which apparently might be approved as soon as 2009. Taking the angle of whether parents of boys would be willing to vaccinate their children to prevent the women with whom they will have sex from getting cervical cancer – the headline is Vaccinating Boys for Girls’ Sake – the article makes a few important oversights.
First, the article comments only briefly on warts caused by HPV, and though they are addressed as a serious concern they seem only secondary to cervical cancer; while, understandably, cervical cancer is a more serious concern – in that it is life-threatening – warts are not trivial and their prevention should work as a major selling-point for this vaccine in boys. Secondly, this article works mostly under the assumption that all boys are heterosexual. What gets lost with this assumption are risk-factors that are far more threatening than warts, as HPV is a major risk factor in penile cancer and anal cancer – cancers most commonly seen in men who have sex with men.
In trying to cover its political bases by obscuring the fact that Gardasil prevents HPV (a sexually transmitted infection) Merck might have marketed itself into an uncomfortable hole, as boys clearly have a personal stake in this too – regardless of their lack of a cervix, and even regardless of their altruistic feelings for them.
Contributed by Veronica Bayetti Flores