The first cancer prevention vaccine was administered in Australia exactly 10 years ago. Since that day, the HPV cancer prevention vaccine as been sold in 130 countries across the world. As a result, HPV vaccine effectiveness has been so high, that the rate of cervical pre-cancerous lesions has been cut in half.
This should be celebrated. As I’ve said at least a few times, the ways to reduce your actual cancer risk is limited. And it does not include drinking a kale-blueberry shake every morning. The real ways to reduce your risk of cancer can be as easy as staying out of the sun to stopping smoking. But the HPV vaccine is one of the most critical tools in the “war on cancer.”
Unless you’re a noobie to this blog and website, you probably know I’m a big proponent of the human papillomavirus (HPV) anti-cancer vaccine, usually known as Gardasil or Cervarix. And now we have more evidence that the HPV vaccination schedule has caused a significant drop in HPV infection rates in teens.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA. There are more than 40 HPV sub-types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. Additionally, some HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
HPV is linked to many dangerous cancers in both men and women, such as penile, cervical, anal, mouth and throat cancers. In fact, HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as frightening as tobacco for causing cancer.
Because HPV is so prevalent in adults, blocking the infection in pre-teens, teens and young adults can eventually lower the cancer rate for all HPV-related cancers. Maybe one day, it can be wiped out, like many other infectious diseases just through vaccination.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in January 2015. It has been revised to include information from a recent Australian Federal Court ruling that imposed fines upon the homeopaths.
On December 22, 2014 an Australian Federal Court ruled that Homeopathy Plus! Pty Ltd, LTD, and its creator and director, Ms. Frances Sheffield, engaged in misleading conduct in trade or commerce in making claims against the whooping cough vaccine and in support of homeopathic remedies as an alternative – or a second line of defense – for preventing whooping cough.
Most of the early data was in reduction of cancer rates, especially for cervical cancer, in women. Part of this bias was because the HPV vaccine was originally just indicated for girls and young women. But more recently, the vaccine was approved in most areas of the world to be used with boys and young men.
However, a new study is out that gives us more evidence that the vaccine will prevent cancer in men. And that’s more good news if you’re looking for an effective way to prevent some cancers.
I intensely dislike all forms of medical quackery. Of course, my passionate, full-throated, defense of the scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is fairly obvious. There are literally mountains of evidence that support my skepticism of the antivaccine beliefs.
But there’s more junk medicine out there than the pseudoscience pushers running around the vaccine world. One of my favorite ones is homeopathy. It is a scam that tries to convince people that a vial of nothing more than water (and sometimes ethanol) has some magical medical properties. And it’s expensive water, much more expensive than some bottled water that claims it’s bottled at the source of some glacier in the Alps.
Given the 95% vaccine uptake rate, it begs the questions of why I push so hard for vaccination–because I want to protect the lives of children, and those 5% who aren’t vaccinated are at risk of serious disease and even death. And vaccines are the safest way to protect a child–protect them from death.
Nearly 55% of the readers of this blog are not American (a couple of years ago,this blog got a regular reader from Iran, which meant that all countries were represented amongst this blog’s readers). I have been accused of being a bit American-centric, but at the same time, I was also curious about vaccine uptake worldwide. Continue reading “Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014”
One of the signs of HPV infection as a STI is the appearance of genital warts, and if there is a drop in the occurrence of genital warts in a population, we can assume that there could be a concomitant drop in the risk of these cancers. And we go back to the HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil or Silgard.
One of the most selfish and narcissistic tropes of the antivaccination cult is that “if your child is vaccinated why do you need to worry about mine.” Setting aside the fact that the vaccine denier can make that arrogant statement because most of the community is vaccinated so her children are protected by the herd effect, it ignores the fact that not every child is vaccinated.
Children who are under the age of 3-6 months either have not or just received the DTaP vaccine against whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), so they are susceptible to adults, teenagers and other children who might be passing along the disease. Moreover, vaccines are not 100% effective (this does not mean that they are 0% effective, just that it’s not perfect), so some people may be vaccinated but still can catch the disease.
But there are also children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and they are vulnerable to infectious diseases, even the flu. In a recent story, the Brisbane Australia Courier Mail reported about a three year child, Lachlan, who, because of a liver transplant that may leave him immunosuppressed for the rest of his life and unable to get vaccinated, must be protected against those children that might carry diseases that could kill this child. To be clear, because vaccine deniers tend to have no knowledge of real science, this child cannot be vaccinated not because the vaccines would harm him, it’s because his immune system cannot develop the adaptive immune response, so the vaccines are useless.
His parents, Chris and Nelia Hay, must be extraordinarily vigilant in protecting young Lachlan. Another child, whose parents may listen to the reprehensible Meryl Dorey, may not be vaccinated and pass along the “harmless measles,” which could kill Lachlan. Every sniffle. Every rash. Anything seen on another child must make the Hays stiffen with fear.
And when Lachlan heads off to a school, his parents will probably have to choose a school with extraordinarily high vaccination rates. Not that I would actually recommend this, but Mississippi, which doesn’t allow any vaccine exemptions except medical ones, has a nearly 99% vaccination rate. Lachlan would be safe there from the ignorance of antivaccination lunatics.
Society and political entities evolved to protect the individual citizen (OK, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than the alternative). We vaccinate not only to protect the ones we love, but also to protect the ones we don’t know. Vaccines work, and we have scientific evidence supporting. Vaccines are safer than almost any medical intervention out there, and we have evidence supporting that. To not vaccinate is simply wrong.
About a year ago, Meryl Dorey, Australia’s infamous American-born vaccine denialist and anti-science promoter, and her Australian anti-Vaccine Network (AVN) was ordered to change its misleading name or be shut down. The New South Wales (an Australian state) Office of Fair Trading left an order at the home of AVN president Meryl Dorey yesterday with a letter of action, “labeling the network’s name misleading and a detriment to the community.” Given Dorey’s, and by extension the AVN’s, well known antivaccination stance, this order wasn’t surprising.