HPV Vaccine: Friend or Foe?
Friday 16 September, 2011 by Amy
If anyone has been following the battle to become the Republican candidate for the US presidency, you might have noticed there’s been some squabbling within the ranks. Number one frontrunner and current Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has been slammed by his wannabe Republican rivals for a myriad of sins from his policies on social security to his views on immigration. But perhaps the matter to have caused the most outrage was his decision in 2007 to issue an executive order making Texas the first state to require schoolgirls to get vaccinated against HPV. According to one of Perry’s fellow Republican contenders, Ron Paul, ‘forcing 12-year-old girls to take an inoculation to prevent this sexually transmitted disease….is not good medicine... It's not good social policy’. Paul is one of many people concerned that the HPV immunisation policy will encourage pre-marital sex and sexual promiscuity within the young Texan community. Now I am certainly no Rick Perry sympathiser, but I do raise an eyebrow at him being condemned for introducing a vaccine that has the potential to save thousands of women from developing cervical cancer. And speaking of raising eyebrows, don’t even get me started on Michele Bachmann’s outrageous claim that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. I think I’ll leave it to the medical world (and Cancer Council Australia) to answer that one. The HPV vaccine was added to the Australian National Immunisation Program in 2007 and has been distributed to all girls aged 12-13 ever since. In June this year, The Lancet published a report showing the number of Victorian teenage girls under 17 years of age with high- grade cervical abnormalities has halved since the vaccine was introduced. This is a hugely promising result and indicates the major impact the HPV vaccine is likely to have on preventing cervical cancer in Australia. So what about the risk of sexual promiscuity? I don’t know about everyone else, but personally the risk of contracting HPV was not a key factor when making the decision to have sex. In fact, it never entered my head, and I’d be surprised if it was much more of a consideration for anyone else. In that case, I don’t see that protection from the virus would make sex suddenly far more enticing to the average 12 year old. The fact is, for the HPV vaccine to be effective, it must be administered before sexual activity starts. In America (including the great state of Texas), according to The National Survey of Family Growth, 13% of 15 year old girls are already sexually active, and 43% are by the time they’re 17. Of those aged 13-21 who are having sex, 70% are infected with HPV within the first few months. Most of these cases could have been prevented by vaccinating the girls in their preadolescence. I’m not a mother, so maybe I’m missing something here, but as far as I’m concerned if we have an effective, safe and proven method of preventing 70% of cervical cancers, we should be using it (and gratefully). In the words of Rick Perry, ‘at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.’
Leave a comment
Read our blog participation guidelines and join the discussion. (Please note: Your first name will appear with your comment, but your surname and email address will not be shown.)