Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Girls, Boys & HPV

The HPV Vaccine, Gardasil, has been a topic of controversy in the public health arena but my only complaint has been that it has been primarily marketed towards girls. Boys get HPV too. In fact, men are at very high risk of getting HPV - so why do we ignore this and only vaccinate the women?

1) women tend to be more health conscious
2) women are at risk for cervical cancer which is linked to HPV and people care about cancer

But the problem is - we end up putting the health and social responsibility of STD protection on women, again. Luckily, a government panel agrees with me and believes that boys should get the vaccine for HPV too. Something this article points out is that the "the vaccine has been slow to catch on — only about a third of adolescent girls have gotten all three shots....Last year, just 49 percent of adolescent girls had gotten at least the first of the recommended three HPV shots. Only a third had gotten all three doses." 

My husband's response was that it surprised him that the rate of vaccination is so low among girls. I wasn't so surprised and here's why: 

1) The vaccine is expensive and many insurance companies don't cover it. When I got mine, my parents had to sign a form saying that we would pick up any of the cost if our insurance company failed to pay. 
2) The vaccine is a series of 3 shots. This is easy when you're dealing with infants who have a wide array of vaccines in their schedule. But the target age for this is 12-13...not so easy. People forget or don't want to come back for the rest of the series.
3) Some out there believe that the vaccine promotes promiscuity. What!? 
4) People don't get the shot at the right age or think you should wait until you're sexually active before you get the vaccine. Wrong - you want to get the vaccine BEFORE you are exposed. 
5) People can be afraid of vaccines. 

The struggle to get women to buy into Gardasil is unfortunate and it's a problem. If women are more health conscious (in general), how do we get men to buy into the vaccine?? Unclear. But I do know that if men can be vaccinated, it will reduce the spread of HPV and the incidence of cervical cancer in women and anal & penile cancer in men.'s linked to cancer in men too! So maybe this thing is important enough for everyone to get at a young age - all three rounds of it! 


Louise said...

theres a lot of misinformation out there about vaccines unfortunately.
In Australia the vaccine is free for girls under 26 yrs.

The intitial results are looking good: