The HPV vaccine is one of my most favoritest vaccines.
From a public health perspective, its efficacy is unprecedented.
From an immunological perspective, learning how the HPV vaccine works is going to teach us something about our immune system we didnt know before.
From a virological and evolutionary perspective, we dont have to be worried HPV is going to evolve ‘around’ our vaccine, or ‘new evils’ will take the eliminated variants place.
Its a beautiful vaccine!
It would be great, for women, if boys got the vaccine too. Of course, boys cannot get cervical cancer, but they can carry the virus and infect women and give them cervical cancer. Eliminated boys as carriers protects women. BUT…
We cannot, ethically, ask boys to get a vaccine that has risks with no/little benefit to themselves just to protect other people.
Turns out the HPV vaccine can help everyone, so the CDC is now recommending that boys get it too. How can it help everyone, even people who do not posses a cervix? Well, of course there are penile and anal cancers that can be caused by HPV, but a very interesting story is emerging about other kinds of cancers.
Back in the day, everybody smoked. Or chewed. Or did something disgusting and dangerous with tobacco that caused lots and lots of oral cancers. All this tobacco use was overshadowing oral cancers caused by HPV! Now that tobacco use is not fashionable anymore, we can finally see the impact of HPV on oral cancers:
Human Papillomavirus and Rising Oropharyngeal Cancer Incidence in the United States.
For example, HPV prevalence by Inno-LiPA increased from 16.3% during 1984 to 1989 to 71.7% during 2000 to 2004.
In the mid-80s, HPV caused 16.3% of oral cancers. Early 00s, 72%
Though it has yet to be explored epidemiologically, the assumption is that women who get the HPV vaccine will be protected from these cancers, and men (who no one told to get the vaccine) will become the primary victims.
We can wait until we see that (as the study authors say, the HPV oral cancer patients have decent treatment/survival rates). Or we can nip this problem in the bud and start vaccinating everyone ASAP.
CDC, the experts on this matter, chose the latter. Im with them on this one 🙂