In a new finding that highlights, once again, the need to vaccinate boys as well as girls against the human papilloma virus (HPV), researchers found that half of the men in the general population may be infected. HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, but it is also connected increasingly to throat cancer, as well as anal, penile and head cancers.
The rate at which men acquire HPV is very similar to women, which adds momentum to the push for boys to be vaccinated, despite the fact that some have said that the vaccine would not be worth the expense. Women are also able to better clear a HPV vaccine, but men don’t appear to have the same ability.
“This study highlights the high incidence of HPV infection in men, which emphasizes their role in transmission of HPV to women,” said Dr. Anne Szarewski of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London in a statement. “It must surely strengthen the argument for vaccination of men, both for their own protection, and that of their partners.”
Doctors and researchers are now beginning to argue that the cost of vaccinating boys may pay off later, both in protecting them from certain cancers but also making sure that they don’t spread the virus to their sexual partners. The fact that HPV is often asymptomatic means that men can spread the virus without knowing that they have it.
However, this may mean that insurers will have to be forced to change their policies, because while the HPV vaccine was marked as a preventive measure for girls under the new health care reforms, it did not get the same stamp of approval for boys. This was because it was cited as a preventive measure for genital warts, which was seen as a less pressing issue.
Certainly, the cost of the three-shot vaccine, which is about $130 per shot, is a consideration, and medical authorities should be careful before recommending that all boys should be vaccinated. But at the same time, it seems as though the threat of the spread of the virus and the various cancers that it causes might make the vaccine more cost-effective than many had previously assumed.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.