Thursday, June 5, 2008

How many more will now be protected?

This morning I brought F1-1 (the oldest, male) and F1-3 (the youngest, female) to the doctor, for their annual well-child checkup. They are both doing fine. The oldest is 15 percentile for weight, 75 percentile for height (tall and thin), while the youngest is 15 percentile for both (short and thin). But perfectly healthy.

I discussed my wishes with the doctor, and she agreed it would be a good idea to immunize the oldest (he's 12) with Gardasil. The nurse came in, looked at the two kids in the room and asked in a very surprised voice who the Gardasil was for.

You see, Gardasil is a vaccine that is recommended and FDA approved for girls 9 years and older. It prevent infection with certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Boys don't have a cervix, so, they don't need the vaccine, right? But who spreads HPV? Isn't it the boys who go from one girl to the next who spread it? In my opinion, both sexes need to be immunized. By the, I think that prevention of genital warts is reason enough, but prevention of spread to girls who then become at risk for cervical cancer, makes it a no-brainer to me. By the way, it appears that the virus causes not only genital and rectal warts in men, but also penile cancer.

I explained this to my son, and he agreed that it would be a good idea. Frankly, in my opinion, my 12-year old is not even close to being ready for sex, but that can change in a short time-span, and I don't really expect he will come tell me when he is. But I do want him and his future partners to be protected.

I explained it to the nurse too, and understanding came over her like a wave crashing on the beach. She told me she has three sons, and she will have them immunized too. I wonder, how many girls will be protected from getting the virus from these 4 boys?

Needless to say, my insurance will not cover the shot, because it is recommended for girls only (whoever thought that one up? Way to go!). At $251 per shot, and 3 shots needed in a 6-month period, it is also rather expensive. Still, it needs to be done. And the powers that be had better realize quickly that to protect the population, both sexes need to be immunized. In my opinion, not immunizing both boys and girls is rather sexist.


CAE said...

Good for you! I've been reading about this a lot lately and the projections and models match the gut feeling - immunising males will reduce the rates of cancer in females. Especially given that some parents will object to immunising their daughters on religious and/or anti-vax grounds.

makita said...

Agreed, 100%. Not only will this protect females, but I'm baffled that preventing genital warts and penile cancer wasn't considered enough of an reason to test the vaccine on boys.

ScienceWoman said...

Good thinking! I wonder if the reason it's not recommended for boys is because the benefits accrue primarily to women. And I wonder if the genders would be reversed what would happen...

Anonymous said...

there is also growing evidence of a link between hpv and oral and anal cancer. since ~10 of today's boys will grow up to be gay/bi men, it makes even more sense to vaccinate boys.

yes, it should be covered. but you are asking for common sense from the same industry that pays for viagra, but frequently not birth control.

Anonymous said...


according to this page from the CDC, the vaccine is not yet licensed for use in men by the FDA and studies are in the works. insurance may decide to cover it once it's approved for use in men by the FDA. without that approval, they can't cover off-label uses.

there is hope for the future!

makita said...

Sciencewoman. I wondered the same thing, but it appears that the same virus is responsible for genital warts and penile cancer in men. Sounds like reason enough for me to immunize both sexes. In addition it begs the question. If men are affected too, why, oh why is it exclusively the women's responsibility to get immunized?

Knobody, studies in men have been conducted since 2004, and it is expected to become FDA-approved in 2009, so yes, there is hope. But would it really have been that difficult to test in both women and men at the same time? In fact, shouldn't it have been more difficult to justify its testing in women only? Just wondering. But then again, you're point about viagra and birth control is well-taken.