Vaccinating the nation’s 11- and 12-year-old boys will cost almost $140 million annually, but the one-time catch-up among males 13 to 21 will cost hundreds of millions more. The government generally pays for about half of all vaccinations.
Dr. S. Michael Marcy, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and a committee member, said that the money needed to vaccinate 11- and 12-year-old boys would pay for only a few hours of the war in Afghanistan while potentially saving thousands of lives in the United States.
The New York Times
By GARDINER HARRIS
Published: October 25, 2011
Boys and young men should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, or HPV, to protect against anal and throat cancers that can result from sexual activity, a federal advisory committee said Tuesday.
The recommendation by the panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is likely to transform the use of the HPV vaccine, since most private insurers pay for vaccines once the committee recommends them for routine use. The HPV vaccine is unusually expensive. Its three doses cost pediatricians more than $300, and pediatricians often charge patients hundreds more.
The committee recommended that boys ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated. It also recommended vaccination of males ages 13 through 21 who had not already had all three shots. Vaccinations may be given to boys as young as 9 and to men between the ages of 22 and 26.
The committee recommended in 2006 that girls and young women ages 11 to 26 should be vaccinated, but vaccination rates in the United States have so far been disappointing.
The vaccine has been controversial because the disease it prevents results from sexual activity, and that controversy is likely to intensify with the committee’s latest recommendation since many of the cancers in men result from homosexual sex. The HPV vaccine became a source of contention among Republican presidential candidates after some candidates criticized Gov. Rick Perry of Texas for trying to require that girls in his state be vaccinated. Representative Michele Bachmann falsely suggested that the vaccine causes mental retardation.
But for the public health experts gathered in Atlanta, the vaccine’s remarkable effects were irresistible.
“This is cancer, for Pete’s sake,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a nonvoting member of the committee. “A vaccine against cancer was the dream of our youth.”