What feels like many moons ago I wrote my final university dissertation on the media’s influence in women taking the HPV Vaccine in 2008. This piece of research took me around 9 months to research and write. Now slightly skimming over the particulars but highlighting the fact that I got a First Class Mark and won the Plender Prize for the best undergraduate dissertation written in the Faculty, I’d say it makes me pretty clued up on the facts with regards to Cervical Cancer and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). – “Why are you going on about this?” I hear you cry.
In the news recently a study from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) found that vaccinating boys against the HPV virus, which causes cervical cancer in women, protects them against developing cancers in later years. This has sparked my attention as it was one of the conclusions I came to in my research.
The Human Papilloma Virus is responsible for different types of cancers in both men and women. For my research, in terms of Cervical Cancer, the disease is contracted via intercourse. In the UK and around the world a vaccine has been developed which dramatically reduces the chances of getting Cervical Cancer and to some extent can prevent it completely. The vaccine is designed to be given to girls before they become sexually active (around 12/13 years old). This vaccine was a big hit in the UK and in Australia where it was first administered. My research looked at girls’ attitudes towards the injections but an undeniable part of my research findings lead me to question other ways in which preventable diseases can be prevented.
Low and behold : The Dutch!
Not only have the VU discovered an indirect link protecting men from HPV which can lead to other forms of cancer such as throat cancer but…
When 60% of girls are vaccinated, as has been the case in the Netherlands, the risk that heterosexual men will be infected with HPV goes down by 53%, the researchers say.
How amazing is that finding! By extending the vaccination program to boys you are stopping the virus before it is being spread and therefore needed to be prevented in girls. There are many ethical considerations with regards to these vaccines. You can argue that 60% take up by girls isn’t enough, I did in my research and found that the reasons for this lay within the media, and parental opinions and experiences. You can argue that boys wouldn’t want the vaccine and the take up would be even lower and the administration would therefore be too high. However you could argue that if the risk to men goes down so dramatically the benefits far out away the cost of the injection. What price do you put on a prevention of Cervical, Throat, Anal and many other types of cancer? €100? €200?
Australia are already doing it. The UK, I hope, will be following suit and I am so happy to see that the vaccination programme to be extended to boys is on the agenda at the ministry’s advisory health council for The Netherlands.
Prevention is better than cure. I am a firm believer in that and I think that the amount of money that is put into finding cures and preventative methods for diseases such as cancer is only worth it if we take head of them. I had the HPV injection in 2008. To me it was a ‘no-brainer’. I just hope that others will start to see that benefit of these preventative methods and protect themselves, other women and our children.
So here is my plea to you – Girls go out and get the jab. You can have it up to the age of 18. If you haven’t had it yet I would urge you to look into it. Boys, if its offered – take it! Protect yourself and protect us women! Its 3 injections in 12 months. It could save your life!