popular belief, common sense, good old fashioned intuition, squeamishness, ignorance and fear of female sexuality, a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) does not embolden girls to have more sex, have more unprotected sex and contract more diseases.
Almost one-quarter of U.S. girls between the ages 14 and 19 and 45 percent of women between and 24 are affected by HPV. And though the vaccine isn't foolproof, it can protect against genital warts, and more importantly, cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers which result from certain HPV strains.
You would think that these the vaccination, which consists of three shots, would be popular, given how widespread and lethal HPV is. But, by 2013, only 57% of girls ages 13 to 17 had received one dose and only 38% all three recommended doses.
A Michigan study from 2012 shows that most US adults support laws allowing teens to get medical care for sexually transmitted infections without parental consent. Less than half of US adults support laws allowing teens to receive the HPV vaccine without their parents’ consent. 43% of those who opposed the laws cited "Risk of side effects with HPV vaccine" as their reason.
Perhaps they were familiar with the research of renowned scientist Michelle Bachmann, who has presented
peer-reviewed literature one unsourced, unconvincing anecdotes at several academic conferences on the TV, demonstrating a link between the HPV vaccine and mental retardation. She claimed in 2012, “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. Her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result." But that theory was so unbelievable, it was rejected by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson.
So why else do people oppose the vaccine? Another reason cited was "Moral or ethical concerns about HPV vaccine." In other words, The HPV Vaccine causes something worse than retardation: sluttitude!
You may not know this because the liberal media likes to keep it a secret, but teenagers, when left to their own devices, have no sex drive whatsoever and tend to spend their entire pre-marital life in a state of chaste bliss. Unless, of course, you show them a video about the birds and the bees, leave condoms in the nurse's office or, god forbid, vaccinate them against something that could kill them. At this point, they become interested in sexy-time.
The problem for the abstinence only, comprehensive sex-ed and safe sex... never crowd, is the evidence isn't on their side. In all fairness, it's not like they're usually big fans of science, so what do they care. But... for the rest of you...
A study out of Harvard Medical School looked at an insurance database to of girls between the ages of 12 and 18 from 2005 to 2010 to compare Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among girls who were vaccinated against HPV and girls who weren't. The 21,610 females who were vaccinated had higher rates of STIs both before and after vaccination compared to those who were not vaccinated (4.3 per 1,000 of the vaccinated females had STIs the year before they were vaccinated versus 2.8 per 1,000 of the nonvaccinated people). But after a year, the STI rates had increased among both populations (6.8 per 1,000 for the vaccinated and 4.2 per 1,000 for the nonvaccinated girls).
The difference in rates between the two populations shows that the vaccination was not linked with an increase in STIs in vaccinated girls relative to nonvaccinated girls. The study "found no evidence that HPV vaccination leads to higher rates of STIs... our findings should be reassuring to physicians, parents and policy makers that HPV vaccination is unlikely to promote unsafe sexual activity." As Robert A. Bednarczyk, Ph.D., of Emory University, Atlanta, writes, "The hesitancy on the part of parents and physicians to vaccinate or discuss vaccination may be attributable to worries that HPV vaccination will be seen as a tacit approval for sexual activity ..." But, he points out, the study, "present[s] a novel analysis that indicates no evidence for increased sexual activity after HPV vaccination... These findings should not come as a surprise to researchers in the field of HPV vaccinology and should serve as continued reassurance that HPV vaccination does not lead to sexual disinhibition."
This is progress, but there's a lot more to be done. Now that we know the vaccine doesn't cause girls to break out instantly into genital warts, all that's left is convincing people who are resistant, as Bednarczyk writes:
this reassurance leaves us with the question, "How can we use these findings to address concerns of anxious parents of adolescents?" ... To date, much research has been conducted to identify HPV vaccination barriers, but less research has been conducted to identify the preferred content and mode of delivery of information to mitigate these barriers. Addressing this knowledge gap through the development and delivery of information relative to all key partners (adolescents, their parents and their health care professionals) will be critical in removing the stigma of HPV vaccine in our efforts to fully use this vaccine.
It's a sad day when it's easier to change immune systems than it is to change hearts and minds.