Rates of HPV strains related to genital warts and some cancers have decreased 56 percent among American teen girls since a vaccine was introduced in 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.
Emphasis all mine. That's right. Science does work. If you get further into the numbers, it's even more impressive. So we've managed to reduce the rates of both genital warts and some cancers by more than half since the vaccine was released. But what's even more impressive is the fact that most of the girls in the study didn't even receive the full course of the vaccine, which combines three shots over a six-month period.
While the HPV decrease was significant, the CDC is urging more people to make sure that their family members get the full dose of the vaccine. The U.S. has a goal of an 80 percent vaccination rate, but only 35 percent of girls in 2011 received the full dose, CDC researcher and study lead author Dr. Lauri Markowitz said on the press call.So the good news is we're making a serious dent in HPV infections. The bad news is the scientists in the article keep having to assure the public that the vaccine is safe over and over again. One can only assume its because vaguely famous actresses like Jenny McCarthy make statements about vaccines causing autism. But what's even worse is when our elected representatives like Michelle Bachmann repeatedly get in front of microphones talking about how the vaccine causes mental retardation. These are all of course laughably untrue statements backed up by the scientific equivalent of non sequitur "reporting" in dark corners of the internet. But people still seem to take that crackpot seriously.
The less-discussed opposition point here, though, is the more sinister undercurrent in the right-wing anti-health tide -- the idea that getting your child (sons or daughters -- although it's always daughters that get discussed) vaccinated will somehow turn your abstinent little angel into alustful cockmonster. Apologies to Chris Kluwe. It's an opinion that has rightfully died down a little in the years since Gardasil was released and the number of teen pregnancies / STIs didn't totally shoot through the roof -- even the Family Research Council has an updated statement on HPV that allows that Gardasil is probably sort of basically safe for your daughters, although ABSTINENCE IS STILL THE BESTEST, but in terms of health policies, the conservative default is to oppose making these vaccinations mandatory or even instating an opt-out policy. Even though this issue is a crystal-clear public health concern with increasingly compelling results that would push for doing just that as a society, the refrain of "protecting parental rights" still stands. Those rights, of course, come at the expense of everybody in society, including their own children, and in effect is still their way of saying that if you'd rather just repeat Abstinence Until Marriage 50 times in front of a darkened mirror as soon as your child hits puberty, that's just as good.
But it is not, and statistics are not fucking around when they say that 1) HPV is still a big thing in the US; 2) so is cervical cancer; and 3) we very clearly have the means to fix that problem, if only the will can follow. And that will be the key. If we expect to get our vaccination rates past Rwanda (yes African nations are doing better than us here), we really need to get on the ball. We have a preventive measure that will reduce cancer rates, folks. Let's try a little more science.