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Will Men Get Gardasil?

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve Gardasil for men. But the question is: Will men be willing to get a vaccine for mostly altruistic reasons?

A new study raises questions about that.

The vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection. The virus causes genital warts in men and women and can increase the risk for relatively rare cancers, such as penile and anal cancer, in men. But the most significant health problem HPV causes is cervical cancer in women. Public health experts hope that if the vaccine is approved for men, it could reduce the toll of cervical cancer by reducing the spread of the the virus.

So Mary Gerend of Florida State University and a graduate student surveyed 356 male students, asking them to rate on a scale from 1 to 6 their likelihood of getting the vaccine--with 1 equaling "very unlikely" and 6 equaling "very likely."

The men who were told about the vaccine's potential benefits for their partners were no more likely to say they'd be interested in the vaccine than those who were just told about the benefits for themselves. Both groups had a mean score of just below 4, the researchers reported in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Even those who said they were in committed relationships were no more inclined to get the shots.

Now, the researchers noted that the survey involved college students between the ages of 18 and 20. So it's unclear what they mean by a "committed relationship" at that age. But the researchers say the findings suggest a more forceful education campaign will be needed if the vaccine's manufacturer, Merck, wins approval of the vaccine for men.

It's important to note that other studies have produced more promising results indicating that men might be more inclined to get the vaccine. If you want to read more about all this check out this story, "A Vaccine Debate Once Focused on Sex Shifts as Boys Join the Target Market," I wrote recently about this subject.

By Rob Stein  |  June 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cancer , Family Health , Vaccinations , Women's Health  
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Perhaps I'm not reading the item correctly, but I interpreted the information presented as indicating that most of the respondents were "likely" to get the vaccine (mean rank of those polled was just under 4). And if so, where's the story?

Posted by: fdrew | June 4, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

The main reasons men would get Gardasil or most other vaccines:

1. It becomes standard practice to give them the vaccine during their preteen years, as has been suggested for women
2. The vaccine is low-cost, free, and/or is covered by insurance.

The cost of Gardasil is still not covered by many insurance plans for girls and women ages 9-26!

I am a young college student. Gardasil is not covered by my University of California undergraduate group insurance even though we are a major target group for this vaccine.

Without insurance coverage, getting the HPV vaccine costs hundreds of dollars. I asked about it for myself at the student health clinic. I was quoted a price of $450.

Even if it prevents cervical cancer and HPV infections/warts, I cannot afford $450 out of pocket for it, so I and my fellow students will not be getting it.

We know that men take less initiative than women do to take care of their own health. Young men do even less. Even if the vaccine cost was covered for them, I don't think most of them would be vaccinated.

The benefits for men are not as significant, and you have to go back three times to get three separate shots. How many people bother to get one flu shot, even if it's free or low-cost, and even if they think it will protect themselves or others around them?

Many vaccines and infectious disease tests are required for enrollment in most universities. Make the HPV vaccine required for enrollment in junior high, high school, or university, and more people will get it. Maybe it will even be covered by insurance.

Otherwise, forget it.

Posted by: fonkyou | June 4, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Men should be vaccinated because it is beneficial to THEM. I don't understand why this news is not getting out. The same strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer are now known to be responsible for anal cancer and and many forms of head and neck cancer. Any man who engages in anal sex, not just gay men, are at risk for anal cancer. All men who have HPV are at also at risk for head and neck cancers.

Posted by: lizbo | June 5, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I work for Medicine Shoppe and thus far our pharmacists recommended that girls between 11 and 12 years of age receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The good news is that older adult women are also seeing benefits from the vaccine. For more information about Gardasil for men and women ask your local pharmacist.

Posted by: imzmsi | June 5, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I think the biggest market will be for boys, as a routine vaccination, and for gay men (there's already a strong demand there). While there are certainly some college-aged heterosexual men out there who are proactive about their own health, and others who care about their partners' health, I'd guess it's unlikely that most would go for the first shot, let alone the next two.

As a parent I'd be as likely to get a son vaccinated as a daughter, but in fact I've decided not to go that route at all as I have several concerns about the vaccine.

Sure, the majority of girls who've got it have done fine, but there seems to be some evidence that it is triggering autoimmune disease in susceptible individuals.

Then when I look at the efficacy, the potential side effects just aren't worth it. Merck's most recent data showed only a 17-45 percent efficacy against pre-cancerous cells; if, as seems likely, replacement diseases will move in as the many strains of HPV NOT covered by the vaccine fill the biological vacancy, then my daughters could remain largely unprotected.

I think it's interesting that (as per the other article) there's less ranting about the vaccine encouraging boys to be promiscuous (would they need encouragement LOL?)but the truth is that for the vast majority of parents who've chosen not to vaccinate, that was never an issue.

Posted by: Kristin41 | June 5, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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