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New Study Details How Australia is Eradicating Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the 4th most common cancer for women globally, but Australia is on the road to all-but eradicating the disease according to a new report published in The Lancet, Public Health Journal. Australia has already dramatically reduced cervical cancer and by 2028 they are expected to reduce it to fewer than four women per 100,000 and by 2066, one per 100,000. Australia has accomplished this by offering free human papillomavirus [HPV] vaccines. HPV is the virus that causes about 90% of all cervical cancers.

New York Times: "Australia’s national health care system first introduced the vaccination program in 2007 as a cost-free three-dose course for teenage girls. In 2013, the program was expanded to school-age boys, who can carry and transmit the virus, and develop other forms of cancer. According to the Cancer Council Australia, the vaccination has led to a 77 percent reduction in the types of HPV most responsible for cervical cancer. Australia now has one of the lowest cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world."

So, why hasn't America copied Australia's success and implemented free HPV vaccination programs? Elements of the religious right and anti-vaccination groups have opposed it successfully across the country. Some religious groups fear that it will make young women more promiscuous because they will no longer fear getting the dreaded disease. They prefer abstinence education over vaccination. Anti-vaccers argue that the vaccine isn't safe. Such arguments have made it difficult to initiate successful programs in the United States.

The Cut: While Gardasil — the HPV vaccine — exists in some form in most developed countries, it’s inconsistently given, due partly to misinformation spread by the anti-vaccine community, like that the vaccine negatively impacts fertility, and to parental concerns that the vaccine somehow encourages kids to have sex. Though the CDC recommends that all girls and boys ages 11 or 12 (or as young as 9) are vaccinated for HPV, in 2015, just 60 percent of American girls got the first dose of Gardasil, and only 39.7 percent of American boys did. In total, last year, only half of American teenagers were up to date on their HPV vaccines."...

The shame is that both arguments are demonstrably wrong.

The Guardian: ...the assumption that vaccination is a passport to wanton sexual abandon doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – teenagers receiving the HPV vaccine tend to be far more aware of sexual health than their unvaccinated peers, and fully cogniscent of the fact that the vaccine is no panacea to sexual infections. Studies on sexual activity in vaccinated and unvaccinated teen cohorts show quite clearly that sexual activity is not elevated in the vaccinated group.

And the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has proven to be quite safe in a myriad of independent investigations, including a 2015 study of over a million individuals, and is recommended by our Centers for Disease Control.

Unfortunately, America's health professionals will have to keep making the case for HPV vaccine programs and hope they can get through to the policy-makers. They understand that, in the end, it will save lives.

#health #news

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