The Wall Street Journal reported that Gardasil (the vaccine against HPV which can lead to cervical cancer in women) has been approved for regular use in males. The choice of what to do with this information represents an interesting study in economics.
What do males get from HPV? Well, they can get genital warts--those are not as life threatening as cervical cancer. There has been an increase in cancers of the neck and throat. And, most importantly, a male with multiple partners would have the chance to pass the HPV on to another female placing her at risk for complications of the infection including cervical cancer.
Is there any harm in allowing Gardasil to be given to males? Not really as far as this economist's read goes.
Are parents of boys likely to decide to give their boys a vaccine that will have much more benefit for the women they may eventually have sexual relationships with? Perhaps, but it does not seem likely. Why not? First, most parents don't like imagining their children with multiple sex partners. (At least not most parents I know.) If two individuals are completely monogamous for their lifetimes, this is a non-issue. Maybe that is unrealistic, but it is a possibility and some/many parents like to maintain the idea that could describe their children. Second, the risks for the women are much higher than the risks for the men. This is an example of an externality. The boys (and the parents on behalf of the boys) do not necessarily see the benefit of such a vaccination.
Should we mandate that boys get the shot? That seems a bit overly paternalistic and like a boon for the manufacturer of Gardasil.
Would a voluntary program for boys be more cost effective than trying harder to get girls to get the vaccination? Not according to the latest research in the area.
So, the FDA's decision is probably clinically acceptable but a lot more thinking needs to be done before the opportunity to vaccinate boys is turned into any sort of policy.
Lemon Zest, Turkish Apricot Scones
3 years ago