If your doctor told you she could give you a vaccine to prevent cancer, would you accept it? Do you think what I’m asking you is a rhetorical and ridiculous question? What if I told you that it isn’t.
Federal health officials announced today that in the last ten years, the cases of cervical cancer in the United States have dropped by half. For a disease that is the most common cancer among women, this is HUGE news.
Since 2006, a vaccine has been available that protects against the human papillomavirus (“HPV”), which is a principal cause of cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) recommends that all boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12 receive the three-dose vaccine, so by the time they become sexually active their bodies have developed the appropriate immune response. For those who did not receive the vaccine when they were young, the CDC recommends that men up to 21 years old and women up to 26 years old receive the three doses.
Despite the proven benefits of the vaccine, there is still a lot of work to be done. Some parents fear the vaccine has negative side effects, or worry that vaccinating their children sends a message to teenagers that their parents and doctors condone them engaging in sexual activity. Because of these fears 44% of parents in 2010 said they would not vaccinate their children.
However, the announcement today shows that when we listen to science and vaccinate against HPV, cancer causing infections will drop. And if that wasn’t reason enough to vaccinate, under the Affordable Care Act the vaccine is covered without cost-sharing — so there really won’t be a cost reason to not get vaccinated.
Protect yourselves. Protect your daughters. Protect your sons. We can ensure that cervical cancer rates continue to decrease. Shouldn’t we?