Panel considers marketing HPV vaccine to boys

The New York Times is reporting that a U.S. panel is considering the real value of marketing the HPV vaccine to young men. There are several different issues to consider within the subject and federal vaccine advisors have been meeting to determine if the Gardasil vaccine should in fact turn a fledgling advertising campaign and lackluster success to young men and boys.

Human Papilloma Virus has several strains, or types of the virus that can cause a variety of problems. Gardasil which is made by Merck and Cervarix made by GlaxoSmithKline have been marketed primarily to females starting as young as age 9 to their early 20’s to prevent HPV infection. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can be spread through any sexual contact and is responsible for causing genital warts and some types of cervical cancer.

Unfortunately, the vaccine has developed a bad name for itself thanks to life threatening side effects that even have the FDA scratching their head. The series of three injections has been known to cause the most common problems of injection site soreness, but Gardasil also warns of frequent fainting after injections and more serious problems may be linked as well. Due to a mechanism that is not fully understood, young otherwise healthy girls have gotten the vaccine only to deteriorate and even die just weeks after the shot from a rare autoimmune disease known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The disease triggers a breakdown of nerves and muscle control that typically starts in the upper extremities and can eventually render its victims completely immobile while their mind remains fully intact. For those who do not die, they will face a lifetime of disability. The exact trigger between Gardasil vaccination and ALS is yet to be determined, but the FDA has begun looking into the link.

Now health officials are considering the benefits of changing marketing strategies to men and young boys. The panel has had differing opinions on whether or not having warts is of any importance to young males. A member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices felt that nearly half of all men who visited an STD clinic either didn’t know they had warts or simply didn’t care. On the other hand, a member of the American College Health Association said that many young men considered the social and physical ramifications “…on the quality scale just above death.” If the vaccine is given to more men, there is hope that this will prevent the spread of HPV to female sexual partners and continue to prevent cervical cancers. Homosexual men would possibly be able to reduce the rates of penile and anal cancers, which have been on the rise.

The panel is considering what is most cost-effective, and they estimate that only 1% of males within the vaccination age range have received the shot. No matter what is cost effective, each parent should make an informed decision and understand that risks are present. Just because side effects have been seen primarily in young women does not mean that they won’t happen in the opposite sex.

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