October 19 2011

Sometimes it Takes a Men's Health Threat to Take Women's Health Threats Seriously

Libby Jacobson

Over at Blisstree, Hanna Brooks Olsen raps about Gardasil, and the way the vaccine has been foisted upon women with the implicit assumption that women should bear the responsibility for sexual health:

Today, Reuters reported that, according to the Center for Disease Control, too few girls and young women are receiving the Gardasil vaccination, which protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV), and that there are many steps to be taken to ensure that more females are protected from the virus, which can lead to cervical cancer and other diseases. What neither Reuters, nor the CDC, nor almost any other news organization ever mentions is that boys can be vaccinated, too.

The bit about boys being vaccinated is important considering that HPV-related head and neck cancer among men is on the rise. While it remains unclear whether the vaccine could protect against oral HPV transmission, it does protect against some of the same strains implicated in HPV-related head and neck cancer cases.  

Leaving aside any discussion about Rick Perry's Gardasil mandate (a sticky personal liberty issue, though films like 24 Days Later and novels about communicable plagues convinces me I'd have no problem with mandated inoculation), I can’t help but think the women-focused advertising for Gardasil was a misguided, if not irresponsible marketing campaign. If a vaccine is safe and effective for both men and women, then is there any compelling reason to market it to only half the population? Cervical cancer isn’t just another mysterious “female problem” like PMS, yeast infections, or the eye-rollingly-euphemistic “not-so-fresh feeling.” That it would take the revelation that men might be at risk to prompt more boys and men to get vaccinated is utterly maddening. Whether or not men can get cancer from these HPV strains, both men and women are able to spread the virus. Stopping a potentially life-threatening communicable disease is something everybody, not just women, has a stake in.

Blisstree: One More Way That Safe Sex Has Become Women’s Work

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