Why Don’t Boys Get Vaccinated for HPV?

091015_hn_hpvtnYeah!? 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?

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22 thoughts on “Why Don’t Boys Get Vaccinated for HPV?

  1. “Why do HPV vaccines work better in girls than in boys? Because they were designed for and tested in girls. ”

    Or so Saletan assumes, yeah? Unless, of course, he’s secretly a scientist and knows how a vaccine that was “designed for boys” (I’m not sure how exactly you would tailor HPV protein subunits for sex, but let’s assume you can) would be better.

    And as far as the BMJ-published study “not thinking” to include non-heterosexual pairings? That’s stupidly harsh.

    “A limitation of our analysis is that we 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. Such an analysis would require a more comprehensive model that includes a fuller range of sexual behaviours, which we acknowledge as an important priority for future work. ”

    That’s straight from the study. If they weren’t thinking of it at all, why would they even acknowledge it?

    This is the caliber of post I’d expect out of Maria-Mercedes.

    • I was going to quote the same portion from the study. The authors of the BMJ study DID think of homosexuals, but did not have the resources to fully test the entire spectrum of human sexual orientation. I’m sure that follow-up studies are already in process, but these things do take time.

  2. Can I point out…it’s not that big of a deal…
    Isn’t it just one shot or a series of two or something? Not really a big deal either way I think, whether it’s guys or girls that get them.

    • No, not a big deal at all. Well at least not the getting the shots part. The paying for them if you don’t have insurance part might be a big deal. The side effects are kind of a big deal too, particularly the risk of death. Someone with a needle phobia would also consider getting them to be a big deal.

      • If someone really is a “needle-phobe” that means put the weenie or vag away because you sure as hell aren’t getting HIV tested in a regular basis. Everyone should be able to get the shot if they want it. Fork over the cash and protect your goods. Or not, whatever suits you.

      • My post or Rhonda’s or the whole thing?

        I can see the fear of needles being a big deal and I didn’t realize that death was a potential side effect. Mostly I just saw it as a kind of jumping on something fairly small and making it seem like a bigger problem than I think it is.

        I will say, however, that birth control isn’t just my girlie responsibility and since my bf pitches in too, I can’t make the comparison.

  3. I wasn’t aware it was POSSIBLE at this point in medical advancement to vaccinate boys against HPV. I’m pretty sure I’ve read medical pamphlets and websites stating that.

    If they find one though, I can’t see how it would be unncessary. Not all girls get vaccinated for it.

      • Still, it would speed up the process of getting rid of the disease. If 85% of boys who got the shots were protected against HPV, that’s a lot of boys protected against HPV and consequently all the girls they have sex with are protected too. Then if, say, the technology improves, and the next generation’s success rate is 95%, HPV would become less and less common in a short period of time.

        HPV needs to be looked at as a societal issue, not just one for girls and their moms to deal with. I’m glad the efficacy of the vaccine is being tested on boys, but I wish it was pressed further.

  4. I feel there is an large amount of ignorance in this question. The HPV vaccine only protects girls from the most aggressive forms of the virus, which cause cervical cancer (about four of the 100 or so strains.) The vaccine does not protect against sexually transmitted disease, not does it protect against cervical cancer (hence girls still need to have pap smears after having the vaccine).

    The vaccine was specifically developed to prevent cervical cancer – which certain strains of HPV can cause/aggravate. It was not designed to irradiate the disease, hence it is not required for males as they are already well protected from the dangers of cervical cancer.

  5. Test and studies are being done to vaccinate boys. My daughter has already received her 3 doses and I would jump for the chance to vaccinate my boys.

  6. i was just diagnosed with high risk hpv and did my research on it. hpv is and sti, and a fairly new one which dr’s still don’t know a lot about.

    it is easier to create a vaccine for women because 1) it is easier to detect in women and 2) there is a greater risk of cervical cancer.

    every article i’ve read states that it’s harder to test for hpv in men. also, while hpv can lead to cancer of the penis or anus, it is less likely than leading to cervical cancer.

    considering that it is made to prevent cervical cancer, it makes sense that the vaccine is more effective in girls

  7. 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.”

    C’mon, that is totally not what he said or meant. How can you pull a shitty conclusion out of thin air like that?

  8. Feminism aside, I am making sure to tell anyone and everyone I know, male or female, not to get the vaccine.

    The evidence is all out there. These vaccines haven’t been properly tested and pose a much higher risk than – dare I say it? – HPV. Cases have been reported of vaccine victims having horrible neurological symptoms, ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease) being among the most severe. On top of that, effectiveness of the vaccine is in debate.

    HPV can be avoided simply, just like any other STD. Safe sex, people! It’s all part of the same pharmaceutical game. Why take simple steps towards prevention (condoms, nutrition, exercise) when you can medicate?


    Now I feel like I’ve done my part.

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