Well, yes and no and sorta

Millions of young British men are being denied a vaccine that could protect them from throat cancers in later life. Scientists say the problem is becoming increasingly worrying as rates of human papilloma virus (HPV) – a common sexually transmitted infection and the prime cause of these cancers – are now rising exponentially.

Researchers want the government to include adolescent boys in the current vaccine programme that immunises girls aged 12 and 13 against HPV before they become sexually active. HPV in women is known to lead to cervical cancers. The vaccine, if extended to boys, would protect them in later life against HPV-related head and neck cancers.

“If we want to eradicate male throat cancers – which are soaring in numbers – we need to act speedily and that means giving them the HPV vaccine we now give to girls,” said Professor Mark Lawler of Queen’s University Belfast.

Those HPV infections in men come from interactions with women for the most part. Who, soon enough, won’t be carrying it and thus not passing it on. So, no, perhaps not necessary.

On the other hand, male to female sex isn’t the only kind so if we really want to wipe it out in humans then yes, jab the boys as well. So no actual strong view here at all. Might be marginally beneficial but doubt it’s of any great importance.

14 thoughts on “Well, yes and no and sorta”

  1. HPV lies dormant, so re-infection is a risk, therefore always potentially contagious. It’s best stopping it getting a grip in the first place.

  2. I’ve been of the view for some time that HPV type viruses may even be the primary cause of cancers, and not lifestyle factors after all. I am not a scientist and all that, but it seems probable to me.

  3. So is the ‘precautionary principle’ no longer in fashion, or does it apply to GM foods, climate, etc, but not infecting babies?

  4. It seems like a no-brainer to vaccinate. We know it will save healthcare dollars so cost is not a long term issue. More importantly who wants a higher risk of getting warts?

  5. I assume experienced cunning linguists will just have to wait and see whether they get throat cancer…

  6. But there are plenty of girls who won’t have had the vaccine: all those who migrated to the UK after the age of 13. Not to mention any action that our boys get abroad. Much safer to vaccinate everyone.

  7. I don’t detect even a hint of circumspection here regarding the efficacy of vaccines, possible adverse reactions, nor long-term effects on a personal or population level. Not that I have a strong opinion, I’m just a little surprised at the easy confidence of turning babies to pin cushions. But then you’re not babies, are you?

  8. Nemo,

    You raise valid concerns. After watching the most beautiful girl in 4th grade nearly die, and be scarred for life, from chicken pox my view is that the risks of not vaccinating are not worth taking.

  9. LY: Your grade numbers are lost on me – what age is 4th grade? And the example you give seems a very poor rationale for mass bodily invasion; an individual misfortune becomes blanket justification to inject people with multiple pathogens at the most vulnerable time of life and when unable to consent or object?

    Again, I’m not confident enough in my knowledge to have a strong opinion, but the unbridled enthusiasm here is worrying: first, there’s the obvious point of inflicting your will when it’s not you who’ll suffer the consequences, and you probably won’t be around if there are any; second, it’s a recipe for an ever-longer list of injections with little concern for potential adverse outcomes. How many vaccines and with what cost/benefit certainty? Will we stop before we get a ginger vaccine?

  10. Ian B, if cancer is actually viral, could susceptibility to infection be due to lifestyle factors?

  11. Nemo,

    4th is 9-10 depending on the school district.

    The question of whether a vaccine is good or not depends on the overall harm done by the virus and the risk of infection. The side effects of the chickenpox vaccine are far less severe than the disease itself before we consider shingles later in life. As a live vaccine those that have extreme reactions are the people who would have died otherwise. Leslie may have still ended up in the hospital but the scarring wouldn’t have occurred.

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