A study conducted by the Duke University suggests a strategy to maximize the use of limited public health care funds in order to protect more people from an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) called human papillomavirus or HPV and the cancers that can be caused by this infection.

The study suggests that public health programs can ultimately protect more people for the same cost by devoting a portion of their funds to persuade more boys to get vaccinated against HPV rather than just trying to boost coverage among girls.

HPV-related cancers have been increasing in men and women and there are more than 50% of Americans that will acquire HPV at any age based on research. Some of these infections just go away after a few years, but some of them can become cancer if left untreated.

The CDC or Centers for Disease Control recommends that both girls and boys at ages 11 or 12 should already have an HPV vaccine. However, there is only 37% of girls and 14% of boys in the United States that have received this vaccine in three shots which is definitely much lower that the needed proportion to keep the HPV in check.

Marc Ryser Ph.D., and Kevin McGoff Ph.D., both mathematicians from Duke University and Evan Myers OB/GYN, M.D., M.P.H., developed an HPV transmission mathematical model consisting of sexually active teens aged 14 to 18. This mathematical model will enable them to figure out whether various strategies for allotting public funds can protect more people.

The researchers then tried to compare the effectiveness of HPV vaccine campaigns based on different cost situations – cost of vaccination for more people per dose, and cost that could reach parents who are less likely to allow their children to get vaccinated.

The study shows that there is stagnation in HPV vaccination coverage in girls over the past three years. According to statistics, 44% of American parents declined to vaccinate their children against STI (sexually transmitted infection) before their kids become sexually active although the vaccine works best if it’s given before a child has been exposed to any sexual activity.

Dr. Marc Ryser explained that increasing coverage in girls to a sufficient level to protect more people can become more expensive especially that more parents disagree on this vaccination program.

According to Dr. Myers, it takes more effort and money to try to convince parents to have their children vaccinated against HPV. The author said a portion of a hundred parents will agree to vaccinate their children without any hesitations, some of these parents will disagree without any further questions, and others will be somewhere in between.

The analysis of these researchers suggests that public funds can actually provide protection for more people for the same cost through the diversion of some of these funds to encourage vaccination among boys. The reason behind this is that the percentage of parents that are willing to have their boys vaccinated has not yet been exhausted.

Due to the stagnating vaccination rates in girls and parents opposing to HPV vaccinations, the authors suggest that boosting the coverage for boys by 14 to 15% can cost less rather than boosting coverage in girls from 37 to 38%.

Co-author Dr. Kevin McGoff said that the trade-off can benefit the entire population since increasing coverage whether for boys or girls entails fewer people transmitting the disease to people who are uninfected with HPV.

 

 

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