by Becca Stanger, Outreach Intern
National Women’s Law Center
Last week, the New York Times reported that the HPV vaccine may be approved for boys by 2009. Approved for women between the ages of 9 and 26 last year, this vaccine protects against four types of Human Papillomavirus which together account for 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. So hurrah for prevailing over cancer-causing viruses! Hurrah for extending immunization to twice as many people!
Wait a second. Did that say cervical cancer? But men don’t have cervixes. Why in the world should boys get a vaccine for a cancer they cannot acquire?
HPV vaccine advocates brought this challenging question upon themselves by choosing to market the vaccine as a “women’s issue.” Vaccine commercials show young women promising to be “one less woman who will battle cervical cancer.” By ignoring the role of men, vaccine advocates trapped themselves in a narrow marketing frame which they now must amend to include boys. But how? How can they convince men to play a role in the fight against HPV?