Yeah!? Thanks to William Saletan over at Slate for asking the “experts” if dudes should play their part as well:
No, say the authors [of a British Medical Journal study]. “Our results suggest that if vaccine coverage and efficacy are high among preadolescent girls (12 years), then including boys in an HPV vaccination programme is unlikely to provide good value for resources compared with vaccinating girls only. … [O]ur analysis favours HPV vaccination of preadolescent girls (with continued screening in adulthood) as a valuable intervention for its cost. … Including boys in the vaccination programme, however, generally exceeded conventional thresholds of good value for money.”
Why vaccinate girls but not boys? The authors cite several factors. First, HPV is more likely to harm girls. Second, the vaccine is more effective in girls. Third, the rate of viral transmission depends on the virus’s prevalence “in the opposite sex at any given time.” If girls are routinely vaccinated, there’s nothing for boys to catch or transmit.
Translation: “[B]oys don’t have to get vaccinated for the same reason they don’t have to wash dishes, do laundry, buy birth control, or think about other people in general: Girls will do it for them.”
Preach it, Saletan! Slate goes on the say that the reasons HPV vaccines work better for girls is exactly because they are made for and tested on girls. HPV might affect more girls than boys, says Saletan, but you can make the same case for pregnancy. Guys get to enjoy sex as much as their lady counterparts, why not take a share of the responsibility, too? Especially because HPV can affect the children they father.
Of course, this short-sighted study assumes that all relationships are heterosexual ones. Indeed, the BMJ did not think the include data from gay male participants, who can also suffer the consequences of HPV transmission, and of course, don’t really benefit from female vaccination:
If you want to see a world where men wash dishes and do laundry, it isn’t hard to find. It’s a world where men live, have sex, and share household responsibilities with other men. They don’t have wives or girlfriends to think about and take care of everything for them. They have to do it themselves.
The same is true of protection from sexually transmitted viruses. The authors of the BMJ paper concede that they “only represented heterosexual partnerships and therefore did not reflect HPV transmission among men who have sex with men, who face a high risk of anal cancer and may realise a greater benefit from HPV vaccination.” But the argument for vaccinating gay men isn’t just that they might benefit. It’s that vaccinating women won’t help them. They can’t count on somebody else to take care of the problem.
Saletan says the authors of the study concede that if “coverage in girls ends up being low, then vaccinating boys became much more attractive.” That attitude doesn’t help our homosexual comrades. Plus, seriously, Saletan closes, why should the same sect that takes responsibility for birth control also have to shoulder the HPV vaccination?