October 13, 2009
Assuming most girls are vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer, encouraging boys to get the vaccine is not cost-effective, concludes a recent report.
"There may be better uses and other health interventions that would increase health gains in the population," said Harvard School of Public Health researcher Jane Kim. She and colleague Sue Goldie describe their study in the British Medical Journal.
Merck & Co.'s human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil has been shown to be effective in protecting boys and men against the virus, and the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve the vaccine for males ages 9-26. It is approved already for use in girls and young women.
The study results do not necessarily mean that the drug should not be approved for boys and men, but that routine vaccination may not be cost-effective, the researchers say.
"If coverage in girls ends up being low, then vaccinating boys became much more attractive," Kim said.
The computer model used to estimate the benefit of vaccinating boys and men with Gardasil relied on clinical trials, population studies and cost data. The benefits identified in the model include preventing several diseases: cervical cancers, genital warts and a respiratory condition that can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby.
To determine the cost-effectiveness of Gardasil, the researchers calculated quality-adjusted life years with and without the vaccination.
The full report, "Cost Effectiveness Analysis of Including Boys in a Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Program in the United States," was published in the British Medical Journal (2009;339:b3884).