HPV Vaccine Bests America's Painfully Misguided Paranoia

by
Owen Poindexter
The HPV vaccine is succeeding despite America's self-defeating paranoia and moralizing, according to a new study.
hpv, hpv vaccine
The HPV vaccine makes some people squeamish, but it does prevent cancer, for what that's worth. IMAGE: Biggishben, CC License
 
A new study shows that the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) has drastically reduced transmission rates in the U.S., even though about 79 million Americans, one quarter of the country, has HPV (!) mostly teenagers and 20-somethings. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, certain strains of which cause cervical cancer. The reduction in transmission was reported in a study by the Journal of Infections Disease, which covered 2003-2010. The HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, at which point the rate of cancer-causing HPV strains was at 7.2%. By 2010, that rate had been cut in half, to 3.6%, despite the U.S. lagging seriously behind other developed countries in vaccination rates.

Which is to say, our vaccination rates are embarrassing. HPV vaccines are about 33% among teenage girls, who are affected most by HPV. The New York Times reports that vaccination rates are as high as 80% in countries like Denmark and Britain, and even in Rwanda, which has a GDP of less than one two-thousandth of that of the U.S. What's our problem? Cancer sucks more than just about anything, don't we want to beat it?

Sure we do, but apparently not at the cost of indulging our paranoia and moralizing. Around 44% of American parents say that they do not intend to vaccinate their kids, some because they feel it condones sex. I would counter that the HPV's main effect is to PREVENT CANCER (ahem), but sure, it is a tacit acknowledgment that your teen might be getting it on. I know that's weird, but it's reality, get over it for everyone's sake. One New York Times commenter suggested that you just tell your teen it's a booster shot. If lying about what you are injecting into your child makes you morally squeamish (fair enough) how about, y'know, having the sex talk. If you don't condone sex, tell your kid (and good luck with reaching them on that). Your kid is going to do things that you wish they didn't. They would probably prefer that you protect them and their friends from cancer in the process.

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