The Corner

Still More Gardasil Math

The CDC is recommending that boys receive the HPV vaccine in addition to girls.

I previously calculated that if you vaccinated all girls at $360 a pop, you’d spend about $75,000 for every case of cervical cancer you prevented — and that’s not counting doctors’ fees (the vaccine requires three shots to be given in separate appointments, as well as, sometimes, follow-up appointments). That might be a good investment for a parent or a young woman — but considering the financial state our governments are in and the fact that HPV risk is largely a function of the sexual choices one makes, it’s probably not the best way for a government to spend that money.

Only about half as many men as women get cancer from HPV, so if you vaccinated all boys, you’d be spending about $150,000 per case before doctors’ fees — assuming that the vaccine works against head and neck cancers, which are by far the most common HPV-related cancers in men, and which the vaccine is not proven to prevent. And like cervical cancer in women, HPV-related cancers in men are usually curable. Once again, we have a vaccine that deserves to be on the market, and that parents, patients, and doctors should carefully consider, but that the government should stay away from.