Yesterday, I got the my third and final vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Some strains of this wart-causing virus also cause cancer. The vaccine I bought – Merck’s Gardasil – protects against HPV types 16, 18, 6, and 11. About 70% of cervical cancers are thought to be caused by types 16 and 18, along with most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancers. About 90% of cases of genital warts are caused by types 6 and 11.
The vaccine isn’t cheap, but I think it would make a huge amount of sense to vaccinate all children with it, or with an improved version that covers even more HPV types. Giving it to all children makes sense because they are relatively unlikely to have already been exposed to HPV, unlike me. Still, even though there is a chance I have already been exposed to one or more types, I think getting the vaccine makes a lot of personal sense. A study of 4,065 males ages 16 to 26 found that over 30 months three men who were vaccinated developed genital warts, compared to 28 cases in a control group given a placebo, and that none of the vaccinated men were found to have pre-cancerous growths linked to HPV, compared with three cases in the placebo group.
The four doctors who were involved in this procedure were all aware that Gardasil can be used to prevent HPV in men as well as a means of protecting future sexual partners (one doctor prescribed the vaccine and three who gave injections over the course of six months). The vaccine is covered by some health plans.
Previously: Getting the HPV vaccine