The American government’s goal of vaccinating young girls against the human papillomavirus has been disappointing, with less than a third of teenagers having completed a full course of HPV vaccine. But now the United States can look to Australia, which six years into a successful nationwide HPV vaccination campaign has experienced a sharp decline in the number of new cases of genital warts among young men and women.
The country, one of the first to establish a nationally financed HPV vaccination program for girls and young women, has also seen a decrease in the number of cases of cervical abnormalities, a precursor to cervical cancer.
Australia’s program, which started in 2007, offers free HPV vaccination to girls who are 12 and 13 years old, and catch-up programs for girls and women under 26. The vaccine protects against genital warts as well as cancers of the cervix, head and neck…
The findings suggest that Australia’s program, which has experienced little of the resistance that has stymied vaccination efforts in the United States, has been an overwhelming success, said Basil Donovan, an author of the study and a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney…
Australia’s vaccination campaign sharply contrasts with the program in the United States where, studies show, parents often opt out of HPV vaccination for their children, calling the vaccine unnecessary, citing concerns about its safety or saying they have difficulty explaining to their teenagers what the shots are for. Some parents have also hesitated over fears that HPV vaccination might give their teenagers license to have sex, even though studies have countered the notion that the vaccine alters sexual behavior.
“There was little resistance to the HPV vaccine in Australia, just the usual anti-vaccination people and a few religious groups,” Dr. Donovan said. “But even the religious groups have gone quiet, and I suspect that many of them are quietly getting their children vaccinated.”
Will anyone ever come up with a vaccine against the ignorance and bigotry that fuels the anti-science crusade in the American Right?