People Aren’t Getting a Cancer Vaccine, and That’s a Problem

It’s well known by now that we have a vaccine that can prevent cancer. Even though this vaccine was approved for girls in 2006 and for boys in 2011, that’s still an amazing sentence to write. We have a vaccine that can prevent certain types of cancer. And yet a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the kids in the United States aren’t getting it.

The HPV vaccine is widely known to prevent certain types of cervical cancer, but the benefits are actually more broad than that. It’s true that, in the United States, 4,000 women die of cervical cancer every year and an estimated 70 to 90 percent of those deaths could have been prevented by the HPV vaccine. But if you think this is only a vaccine for women, you’d be wrong. According to the Atlantic:

There are also more than 7,000 cancers of the head and neck in the U.S. every year deemed “potentially HPV-associated,” according to the CDC. Around 5,700 of those are in men. That’s in addition to 3,000 HPV-associated anal cancers (1,100 in men), 2,300 new cases of vulvar cancer, 800 penile, and 600 vaginal. The vaccine could prevent many, though an unclear number, of these cases.

Not only could this vaccine prevent thousands of cancers in the United States, alone, it’s also safe. And it works! Since the vaccine was given the OK for girls in 2006, the prevalence of the type of HPV the vaccine prevents is down 56 percent. Adopting widespread usage of the HPV vaccine has been a no-brainer for other countries. In Australia, the vaccination rate for boys is between 70 and 80 percent, and for girls it’s almost 100 percent. In Rwanda, 80 percent of girls are vaccinated. In fact, the CDC thinks that if we can hit Rwanda’s levels of vaccination, we can prevent 50,000 girls alive today from getting cancer. That’s incredible.

What is not so incredible is our actual vaccination rate. Even though 11- to 12-years-old is the recommended sweet spot for getting the HPV vaccine, less than half of teens in the United States have gotten it. Between 2012 and 2013, there was only a 5 percent increase. That is not great.

Because HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, I was worried that the resistance to vaccination came from some puritanical notion of appropriate teenage sexuality, especially when it comes to girls. The new CDC report, however, suggests that this might not be the case. One of the top five reasons parents choose not to get their teen vaccinated is because it wasn’t recommended to them by a medical professional. However, even when the vaccine is recommended, parents often choose not to vaccinate.

So what can we do? Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant U.S. surgeon general and director of the National Center of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, thinks that we need a better way to make parents understand how important this vaccine is to the future health of their children. Just talking about it with a doctor isn’t enough:

“We think it’s a much better way to say, ‘Today there are three recommended vaccines: meningitis, Tdap and HPV,’” Schuchat said. “Really mainstreaming the recommendation for HPV together with the other two recommended vaccines; we think that is a very clear way to send a strong recommendation and it’s easy for parents to understand.”

The optimal time for boys and girls to receive the vaccine is at age 11 or 12, when studies have shown that their bodies produce the strongest antibody response. “When people say let’s talk about it, let’s wait and we can do it later,” Schuchat said, “so often teens are never back in the office; and you really don’t know when they’ll be exposed to the virus in their later years.”

With 14 million new HPV infections in the United States per year, we can hardly afford to wait.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Josie Ulrich

Every parent should research any & all vaccines BEFORE they are given. Talk to your doctor about your concerns. As responsible parents we must always ask questions when it comes to medicating our children.

Dale O.

Very true, Robert H, the U.S. is a society where a great deal of litigation takes place.

Darlene B, the author wrote an article about the positive aspects of preventative vaccines. One can write an article on bicycles and how riding these are beneficial, it does not make it either a marketing or PR tool. As for this article misleading people, that is your interpretation.

On some articles, there have been some anti-vaxxers that have even accused the authors who dare to write anything positive about vaccines as sometimes being paid by the vaccine companies.

Dale O.

Some people are going to have adverse reactions to vaccines just like any other medication. Nothing new, one can even have severe reactions to herbal medication, so many people read about side effects before they take different medications, these facts are not hidden from us in the world of the internet, TV news, etc., descriptions of side effects on medications.

At times it can appear that if anti-vaxxers could, they would produce a vaccine version of Fear Factor, where every week some vaccine will be featured as something to be terrorized about. These episodes would illustrate all of the worse case scenarios played out to have the audience shaking in fear, without mentioning, of course, that these side effects happen in a minority of situations. I guess each episode would be entitled (Name of vaccine): Run for your lives!

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

HAHAHAAHAHAHAHA Darlene if *I* know only 3 strains cause cancer I am sure the kids tdo too. WE all know how to use google… MOST strains DONT cause cancer and they are not included in the vaccine. MOST strains clear up by themselves because they DONT cause cancer. Get over yourself!!

Mary B.
Mary B2 years ago

Darlene... as usual you scaremonger.....I would hope that the PARENTS of the teens receiving or researching the HPV vaccine would weigh the pros and cons for THEIR child.....The author of this article doesn't claim to be a physician and leaves reference sources for even YOU to look up.....You are vaguely accusing the author or Care 2 of marketing HPV / Gardasil ?.....the author wrote this piece from HER point of view

Darlene Buckingham

Articles about HPV that don’t give all the information are what is misleading people When you talk to young teens they don’t know all the information about HPV vaccines and think that when they get this vaccine they are protected against HPV and cervical cancer. There is a responsibility when writing about medical choices that both the risks and benefits be explained. This article is clearly marketing the vaccine and is not providing the information for informed choice. Hopefully this will not be allowed in the future as people start to hold vaccine companies accountable for fraudulent marketing.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

HAHAHAHAHAHA Only 3 of the many strains of HPV cause cancer so of COURSE most problems clear on their own. More misleading statements made to sound like fact that are actually misdirection.
Everyone ALREADY knows safe sex cuts down on sexual diseases Darlene. Why would a vaccine for HPV be restating what everyone already knows??? Hell why would this article even do it??

The risks of any medication are all in the packaging for said drug. People not reading them does not mean the drug comany are guilty of any crime. Any person who does NOT talk to their DR in depth about any medication they are getting is an idiot. THis case will get thrown out for exactly that reason. THe paclkaging lists all the POTENTIAL side affects on ALL drugs…….no matter HOW small the possibility, because our country is sue crazy. Vaccines are no different. Stop with your misdirection Darlene.

Darlene Buckingham

That’s why people on Care 2 say something about these articles that are misleading. Care2 is a trusted source because it uses the word CARE so if someone reads this article they would not know that there are over 40 strains of HPV and Gardasil provides protection against 4 of the viruses. It is also misleading to say that vaccines prevent cancer - they prevent HPV which MAY be a cause of cervical cancer. It is not mentioned that safe sex is essential in preventing HPV viruses as well as going for regular PAP tests. In fact PAP tests cut the risk of cervical cancer by 90%. The packages do not say that 90% of HPV infections clear up on their own and they don’t advise about alternative ways to control cervical cancer. That is why many people are adding these facts to marketing articles on HPV vaccines in the comments sections. HPV vaccine adverse reactions have been very severe - deaths have been reported as well as autoimmune diseases. These facts have to be discussed as an important part of informed choice and consent. In the USA a person cannot sue the pharma companies. They still can in Spain. We will see what happens.

Mary B.
Mary B2 years ago

Darlene .....weren't YOU the one who stated that everyone is responsible for doing their own research on ANYTHING they put in their bodies? (for some who missed that post it was showing the side effects of Vitamin C ).....Now here you are scaremongering with this post about Gardasil and the HPV vaccine (which WE have always stated was a choice).....I am sorry that perhaps someone had an adverse experience with this vaccine ......I also remember when a lady sued McDonalds because her coffee was too hot and she received a burn when she placed this coffee between her thighs in her car.......Did it stop coffee from being sold there? NO....they improved the packaging to prevent further burns AND lawsuits.....Vaccines are continuously being improved....( ALL vaccines) as more research is done with more knowledge of science and the body......Information was / is readily available !!!

Natasha Salgado
natasha salgado2 years ago