Why is the HPV Vaccine Still Controversial?

Breaking News: Vaccines work. Even vaccines for a sexually transmitted/cancer-causing virus. Who knew?

Federal health officials said Wednesday that the prevalence of human papillomavirus, the principal cause of cervical cancer popularly known as HPV, has decreased by half among teen girls. This is totally thanks to the HPV vaccine.

These are wild results considering only a third of American teenage girls have received the full dose of the vaccine. (For comparison, Denmark and the UK breached 80 percent, and Rwanda’s vaccination rate has reached 80 percent.)

From the New York Times:

“These are striking results,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They should be a wake-up call that we need to increase vaccination rates. The bottom line is this: It is possible to protect the next generation from cancer, and we need to do it.”

Did you read that? It’s possible to protect a generation from cancer. And yet parents are still reluctant to vaccinate their daughters.

The sharp decline in the infection rate comes at a time of deepening worry among doctors and public health officials about the limited use of the HPV vaccine in the United States. Health departments across the country are scrambling for ways to increase vaccination rates, while nonprofit groups are using postcard reminders and social media campaigns and pediatricians are being encouraged to convince families of the vaccine’s benefits.

There are some signs that resistance to the vaccine may be growing. A study published in the journal Pediatrics in March found that 44 percent of parents in 2010 said they did not intend to vaccinate their daughters, up from 40 percent in 2008. Because it prevents a sexually transmitted infection, the vaccine comes with a stigma. Some parents worry it promotes promiscuity. And it has been controversial. During the Republican primary in 2011, Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, said the vaccine could have “dangerous side effects,” a concern that health officials say is unfounded.

Most of the side effects related to the vaccine have been minor, and more serious side effects like fainting and redness and swelling near the injection site are temporary. The Centers for Disease Control have investigated 42 deaths among vaccine recipients, but haven’t found a link.

Long story short: The vaccine is safe, and apparently mad effective.

The rate of HPV infection went down to 3.6 percent in 2010 from 7.2 percent in 2006. The drop was even more dramatic – 56 percent – when the vaccine included two strains of the virus that cause genital warts. Prior to the introduction of the vaccine, infection rates of those strains were flat, which lends credence to the idea that the vaccine is causing the decline. The vaccine wasn’t approved for boys until this year. That data won’t be available until 2015.

But what does this mean in real terms? It means with this vaccine, we could prevent thousands of deaths. According to the New York Times:

There are about 12,000 cases of cervical cancer and 4,000 deaths a year in the United States. At current vaccination rates, the vaccine would prevent 45,000 cases of cervical cancer and 14,000 deaths among girls now age 13 and younger over the course of their lifetimes, according to C.D.C. estimates. Increasing the rate to 80 percent could prevent an additional 53,000 cancers and nearly 17,000 deaths.

Whoa. I’m speechless. These numbers are staggering. We could prevent tens of thousand of cervical cancer cases. We can save thousands of lives. I’m absolutely dumbfounded.

This is an amazing victory for modern science. All we have to do now is get rid of the stigma, and we really could protect an entire generation from cancer.


Image credit: Flickr


Frank Hanline
Frank Hanline2 years ago

@ Sarah B: Some people do have reactions to vaccines, but most are mild and almost none are life threatening.

Compare that to Measles, Diphtheria, Small Pox, Polo and more. Look at the Whooping Cough trouble in California from people not vaccinating their kids. How many children died then? Please look it up. If not, I will tell you and use actual sources

Now there's a Measles outbreak and how many kids have died or now have life debilitating issues?

As to your quote that "vaccines need boosters", yeah, so? Last time I looked I need Vitamins and Minerals everyday. That I may need a booster every 5 to 10 years is not a problem

You fear the wrong thing. Vaccinations saved 10s of Millions of lives since we got them. Now people like you threaten others by being petri dishes for diseases that are far from benign

Sorry, but you have nothing of substance. Vaccines save lives

Sarah Baldwin
Sarah Baldwin2 years ago

@Kyle N.
You my dear friend are sadly misinformed. Vaccines are not one hundred percent effective, otherwise there would be no boosters. You can be healthy and still have a bad reaction to a vaccine. I've had reactions before. After I was vaccinated for Varicella as a child I developed an itchy rash that lasted for a few days. The reaction that I had wasn't all that bad, but there are people who have experienced severe reactions to vaccines, and have even died. It's wrong to require vaccines, because for one thing it takes away a parents right to make appropriate medical decisions for their child, and there are legitimate medical/religious reasons for a child to not be vaccinated.

Sarah Baldwin
Sarah Baldwin2 years ago

Cont: (they are)
exposing hundreds of thousands if not millions of children over the age of six months to mercury and aluminum (highly toxic heavy metals) in vaccines, and thanks to a lack of honest unbiased studies no one really knows the effects of aluminum on the developing brain. Consider delaying immunizations until after the first three years of life as the brain grows most during those years (80% of adult size), and aluminum has been shown to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier. I'm not some crazy anti-vax type, just concerned because the lack of proper information about vaccine risks has produced deadly results. Vaccinate if you wish, but I'd recommend serious consideration about the risks and benefits for each vaccine.

Sarah Baldwin
Sarah Baldwin2 years ago

I'm very disappointed in Care2 for only spouting pro-vaccine drivel. Just FYI, the HPV vaccine is not a cervical cancer vaccine, and it only helps in protecting against a few strains of the virus. Second, no vaccine is one hundred percent effective, and any doctor who says otherwise should be sued for malpractice. Third, as of May of 2013 the HPV vaccine had been linked to 29,686 reports of adverse reactions, 136 deaths, 922 reports of disability, and 550 reports of life-threatening adverse reactions since 2006. Obviously, no one wants cervical cancer rates to rise; however, the vaccine like all other vaccines carries serious risks, and may possibly be toxic due to aluminum or Thimerosal (mercury) adjuvants. The best way to prevent HPV is to encourage young adults to practice safe sex, and discourage serial monogamy. Do your homework when considering immunizing a child, analyze the risks and benefits, and don't just take the CDC's word for it because their business is pushing vaccines; they won't make money off of explaining the toxic chemicals they allow in vaccines and all of the health risks therein.

As a side note, do not and I repeat DO NOT get the HPV vaccine if you've been exposed to strains 16 and/or 18 as there is a 44.6% chance of actually getting cervical cancer if you have been exposed to those particular strains and have received the vaccine. Don't trust BigMedicine; they only want to take your money, and they certainly don't care about the fact that they are

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanline3 years ago

@ Alex H: Just like Fox News, you can claim anything you like

You can mislead, spread innuendo and deceive

"The Proof", they say, "is in the Pudding"

Would you care to some your evidence and back it up or do you work at Fox and merely just saying things is "good enough" for the low info anti-vax crowd?

Alex H.
Alex H.3 years ago

I forgot to mention that a woman researcher who worked with Frazer on this vaccine has now blown the whistle on the hype,ineffectiveness and fast-tracking of this now very lucrative vaccine!What a disgraceful and misleading scam,and the fact that it has proven to be dangerous,plus that man has now had a book written lauding him as some kind of "saint",is absolutely nauseating!

Alex H.
Alex H.3 years ago

I am quite frankly appalled by the misleading bias in this story.Firstly,calling this vaccine a cervical cancer vaccine is wrong.It is an HPV vaccine.Secondly not everyone with HPV ( a very mild widespread human virus)gets cervical cancer.What about dioxin-laced sanitary products?!There have been dozens of deaths directly as a result of this jab.One girl I read about has had her ovaries permanently affected so that she will never be able to have children.(is there a hidden agenda here?Infertility ingredients in this vaccine,perhaps???!)Another case history I tracked down was a 13 year old girl who regressed into a childlike state immediately after having the jab!Her parents are devastated!If these were your daughters,would you be angry?Is this dangerous jab really worth the risk???

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanline3 years ago

I am glad that C2C has finally started to understand that the Anti-Vax crowd uses the same spurious and BS pseudo science as those that say science is out on Global Warming, Evolution and that the Earth is indeed a sphere

As to why HPV is still opposed, it is a strange marriage of Evangelicals and otherwise progressive yet anti-science types.

The Evangelicals hate the HPV as it stops the HP Virus and the damage it can do, even if there is a condom so they can keep sex between a married couple ONLY. The Anti-Vax crowd is just confused on what happens if we take vaccines away. Hint: Millions die every year from completely preventable infections and many who survive can have debilitating complications

Meris Michaels
Meris Michaels3 years ago

I am disappointed with Care2 for suddenly publishing pro-vaccine articles. The HPV vaccine was fast-tracked for approval and showed only modest results in preventing cervical cancer. Furthermore, the vaccine only protects against a few HPV viruses among many. The number of cases of cervical cancer in countries such as the United States is minimal. Most vaccinations of populations in industrlalized countries are unnecessary, some carry dangerous side effects which few physicians mention to their patients before vaccinating them, are not as effective as claimed, and are a way of fattening profits for pharmaceutical companies. In my day, we only took the polio vaccine and a few others if travelling abroad. We got measles, mumps, chicken pox ... and thereafter were immune for life. Today this is not the case. Being vaccinated against a disease does not mean one will be protected from getting it for the rest of one's life.

Ernie Miller
william Miller3 years ago

I think a lot of it has to do with the Republicans and the conservatives that dont want anything to do with SEX. However I think even young boys and men should be given the vaccine we could end this in a generation.