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An Ounce Of Prevention

Why Aren’t Parents Lining Up To Get Their Kids This Cancer-Preventing Vaccine?

As a parent, you slather your kid in sunscreen even on cloudy summer days because you’d rather they don’t get cancer. It’s the same reason you’d probably go ape shit if you caught them smoking cigarettes. So why haven’t parents lined up to inoculate their kids with a vaccine that could prevent 27,000 cases of cancer a year?

The vaccine in question defends against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical, anal, penile, mouth, and throat cancer. A report in the March issue of Pediatrics documents a 64-percent drop in HPV in girls between the ages of 14 and 19 since the vaccine was introduced 6 years ago — the epidemiological equivalent of a rookie winning the NBA MVP. The vaccine is such a no-brainer that countries like Rwanda have achieved a 92-percent rate of vaccination, while back home in the U.S. we’re at … less than 40 percent for girls and 20 percent for boys. Why the discrepancy? HPV is sexually transmitted, the vaccine is administered to 11-year-olds, and American parents apparently don’t want to talk to their 11-year-olds about sexually transmitted diseases.

Girl getting vaccinatedPublic Domain Image

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that few things are likely more effective in convincing your kids to practice safe sex than an explanation of genital warts (also caused by HPV), this reticence makes no sense. As Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini Jr., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Louisiana State University, told The New York Times, “The infection is sexually transmitted, but that doesn’t need to be part of the conversation.” Oh … right. Have them vaccinated at their annual check up and save “the talk” for another day — warts and all.

[H/T] New York Times

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