What's Stopping Girls from Getting the Cervical Cancer Vaccination?

Jerry Kennard Health Guide January 05, 2009
  • During 2007, an estimated 11,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer. Knowing this, and the fact that a preventative vaccination exists, the question is why have less than a quarter of eligible women been vaccinated?

     

    A recent report by Yale University researchers Sanjay Basu, Gretchen Chapman and Alison Galvani, suggests that parents may fear an increase in teen promiscuity, if their children are protected from transmission of the human papilloma virus (HPV), responsible for genital warts and cervical cancer.

     

    I've commented on these curious double standards in Sharepost about stigma in relation to genital herpes. Public health messages frequently use fear and stigma as part of their message to try and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Then, once a person has an infection, it's as if a switch is thrown and we're told not to stigmatize. It's a confusing message.

     

    The HPV vaccination is intended to be administered to girls between 11 and 12 years of age. Follow up vaccinations may be administered from the age of 13 and up to 26 years of age.

     

    Of course it's not just attitudes that play a part. Financially, the vaccination represents a costly outlay for many people, with the average family paying $181. For vaccination costs to be more acceptable, it is estimated that a cut of at least $55 a dose is needed.

     

    Everyone is feeling the pinch these days and none more, it seems, than the Irish Government who have decided to axe the planned vaccination program to save money. At 10 million Euros, the cost of vaccinations is just 0.7 percent of the annual €14 billion spent on health in Ireland. Ireland is a small country but one in which 92 women a year die and around a hundred more undergo treatment for a form of cancer that could be prevented. When the cost of treating cancer, both financial and in terms of human misery, is weighed against the cost of prevention, such decisions seem ludicrous.

     

    It is estimated that the HPV vaccination in combination with cervical cancer screening, results in an 80 percent reduction in mortality rates.