Cervical Cancer Jabs

Following on from yesterday’s rant about the Metro and it’s reporting of superstitions I have an honest enquiry about the HPV cervical cancer vaccinations.

The purpose of the jabs is to provide some level of immunity to the papilloma virus which manifests as genital warts and an increased chance of cervical cancer.  The virus is responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers.  It isn’t a replacement for proper screening but should save a few lives anyway.

Putting aside the irresponsible actions of St Monica’s Catholic School who “unanimously came to the conclusion that vaccination against it is a personal matter for parents to decide in consultation with their family doctor and their children.” even though a private course of injections costs around £500.  Putting aside that they claim that it is not a moral issue (it isn’t, it’s a medical issue) the faith based teaching ideals must have had a strong influence on the decision. 

How is it even a moral issue?  I ask this is all seriousness.  It is true that if nobody had sex the virus would be eliminated within a century or if people restricted themselves only to one sexual partner forever.  This would have to be everybody of course, not just the girls at St Monica’s. 

Let’s assume for a moment that it is considered moral to wait till you marry to have sex and that we should encourage that very Victorian idea.  If a male partner has sex with someone else and becomes a carrier of the papilloma virus that transmits to the woman (who only ever had sex with her husband) then she is at risk.  I’m not even talking about unfaithful men here, what about divorce or death?  I would think it very rare for one man and one woman to be exclusive for their entire lives.

I don’t consider it the moral course to place this sort of restriction on people.  Even if I did it would be impractical to enforce.  Not everybody thinks the same after all.  As people will continue to have sex with one another whether I like it or not then we should take steps to ensure that people are not spreading disease through sex.  An immunisation programme seems the obvious limiter here.  Remember that you need only have sex once to get the virus, it isn’t something that only occurs through promiscuity.  That’s just more Victorian thinking.

Returning to my question.  Given that the purpose is to limit the spread of the virus and provide protection from infection by HPV can anyone please explain why boys are not being immunised as well?  True, boys cannot get cervical cancer, the lack of a cervix ensures that, but boys can still carry the virus and spread it.  Wouldn’t immunisation for boys as well as girls make the effectiveness of the vaccine much greater?

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7 Comments

Filed under You decide

7 responses to “Cervical Cancer Jabs

  1. Yes, but it would double the cost of providing the vaccine. I suspect accountants have something to do with it.

  2. You have a point there but if that is the case then why immunise at all? Why not count the cost as a few women’s lives and some extra expense on the NHS? Half measures to save money just end up costing more eventually in almost every field, medicine included.

    For all I know there may be an actual reason beyond cost that I can’t see. I’m curious as to what that could be. My logic is as follows:

    If cost were the only factor then there would be no vaccine.
    There is a vaccine.
    Therefore cost is not the only factor.

    What then prevents boys from being immunised?

  3. ash

    as only girls can contract the virus, immunising boys would be fairly pointless unless one were also willing to legislate against all foreign travel and immigration (and the sexual encounters that may result); it’s the same reason for malaria tablets – it’s pointless to immunise against something that one has no real possibility of contracting when a world-wide programme of eradication is impractical/unenforceable.

    apart from that, great post ;¬)

  4. SGT, I know.

    Ash, it isn’t entirely true that only girls can contact the virus. Oh sure we can’t get cervical cancer but we can still get some of the minor complaints associated with the virus. It’s probably not cost effective to immunise males for these but that doesn’t stop us being carriers of the virus.

    Your argument also seems to say that there is no point in immunising because people travel and may get the virus from people who have not been immunised. Surely then we should increase the number of people immunised in order to limit the spread of the virus. It’s surely a matter of reducing the probabilities of infection as much as possible.

  5. ash

    turns out i was partly right and partly wrong – normal state of affairs for me then…

    I still reckon vaccines are only applicable for those at risk from dire consequences of contraction, but men CAN get cancer associated with the HPV virus. right now there’s no point immunising boys tho, ’cause they don’t know if the vaccine will have any effect on them.

    http://www.cdc.gov/STD/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm

    “There is currently no vaccine licensed to prevent HPV-related diseases in men. Studies are now being done to find out if the vaccine is also safe in men, and if it can protect them against HPV and related conditions. The FDA will consider licensing the vaccine for boys and men if there is proof that it is safe and effective for them.”

  6. Ash said:

    turns out i was partly right and partly wrong – normal state of affairs for me then

    Yeah, me too.

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