The Little Vaccine That Could

By the year 2050, scientists fear that “deaths from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year … mainly in developing countries.” The good news is that this outbreak and thousands of preventable deaths “could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against [human papilloma virus which] causes most cases of cervical cancer.” The problem is that HPV is sexually transmitted and “opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.”

In the United States, “religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 percent of parents favor vaccinating their daughters.” Staunchly conservative religious groups like the Family Research Council oppose the vaccine on the shaky claim that “Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”

However, this is the same Family Research Council that opposes condoms and the notion of “safe sex” because HPV, one of the most common STDs, can be spread by skin contact and so “condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.” Family Research Council has spent so much time harping on the chance that HPV will be passed in ways other than bodily fluid transmission during sexual intercourse, yet is still opposed to this vaccine. Unfortunately, its past rhetoric is now coming back to haunt it.