The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to debate whether HPV vaccination of boys with Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil will be cost-effective and a route worth exploring, reports NPR’s All Things Considered.
The FDA approved Gardasil in 2006 as a method to prevent HPV strains 16 and 18 which cause70% of cervical cancer cases. Additionally, Gardasil also prevents two other strains of HPV that cause 90% of genital warts. From the National Partnership for Women & Families:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday recommended GlaxoSmithKline’s human papillomavirus vaccine, Cervarix, for routine use in vaccinating girls and young women to prevent cervical cancer, the AP/New York Times reports.
The CDC panel also recommended optional vaccination with Gardasil for boys and young men to protect them from genital warts, although they stopped short of recommending its routine use in boys, as CDC recommends for girls, the Times reports. FDA approved Gardasil for use in boy and men ages nine through 26 last week.
Neal Halsey, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, argued that the most effective way of preventing HPV “would be to immunize both men and women, boys and girls.” He added that the “right thing to do—from a scientific standpoint, ethical standpoint, in terms of shared responsibility—is to immunize all boys, all girls.”
Harvard University research argues that vaccinating boys is not cost-effective if the majority of women are already vaccinated. A Gardasil regimen consists of three doses priced at $130 per dose. Immunizing boys as young as 9, the study states, would prevent HPV if fewer girls had the treatment. The CDC study shows that 37% of U.S. girls ages 12 through 17 have received at least one dose of Gardasil. In the United Kingdom, close to 80% of girls in have received the HPV vaccine.
It is extremely heteronormative to assume that simply by vaccinating girls, boys will be immediately protected from HPV. This leaves out the number of boys who might be gay or bisexual, or have same-sex sexual experiences. If they are not vaccinated, then they are at just as much a risk getting genital warts, anal cancer and other illnesses from HPV. The Harvard Study also places a sense of pressure of women who are made to feel like the must get vaccinated. It poses the question: why are women given the added responsibility of receiving Gardasil?
In debating cost-effectiveness of the vaccine, it is important not to forget the significance of Gardasil—this is one of the first vaccinations known to prevent HPV, a known cause of cancer. Whether it is cost-effective or not is irrelevant, providing it for both men and women as a means of protection is both unassuming and necessary.
By Carlos Blanco, Community Mobilization Intern