It is an extraordinarily unfortunate circumstance when political preferences and ideological orientations are allowed to affect what should otherwise be purely medical or public health matters. The contentious debate surrounding whether teenage girls should be compelled as a matter of sound public health policy to receive the HPV shot as a part of the standard immunization process illustrates very clearly why politics and ideology must be separated from procedures and policies which are substantively concerned with science, medicine, and public health.
While reasonable people may debate the wisdom of abstinence for teenagers, a tangential concern which has been inserted into the HPV debate, the available evidence overwhelmingly suggests that requiring the HPV shot will provide substantial medical benefits to huge numbers of females that may save their lives, that requiring the HPV shot will protect females who might not otherwise have access to the type of medical care to treat problems like cervical cancer after it has been contracted, and that this debate would not even be occurring were it not for stubborn biases based on gender and sexual politics.
As an initial matter, it is well-established that HPV is very effective in preventing the virus which is responsible for the world’s leading cause of death, cervical cancer, for women. Specifically, virtually everyone speaking from a scientific point of view agrees that “A new vaccine has been developed and released for use against a leading cause of death in women worldwide–cervical cancer” (Daley and Mcdermott 302).
In addition to protecting females against cervical cancer, the HPV shot has also been shown to be useful in treating unique types of sexually-transmitted problems such as genital warts and other types of cancer that affect both genders. These problems are caused by the human papillomavirus and multiple studies demonstrate that “the lifetime likelihood of acquiring HPV is estimated to be 75% or more.”
(Daley and Mcdermott 304). Given the fact that this virus is the leading cause of death for women in the world, and that roughly three-quarters of women in the United States are infected with the virus by the age of 50 for example, this is clearly a public health crises for women. While the HPV shot is not absolutely perfect in preventing various HPV complications, it has proven 100% effective against particular medical complications and highly effective against other HPV strains.
The medical testing procedures, in short, are essentially unanimous in arguing that the HPV shot will help to prevent the leading cause of death among women in the world and also to prevent other medical problems caused by HPV.
As a result of this overwhelming medical evidence, the Centers for Disease Control has concluded that “There is now a vaccine that prevents the types of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts” (1) and further that the vaccine is certainly recommended for teenage girls between the ages of 12 and thirteen by physicians and also recommended for girls and young women between the ages of 13 and 26.
From a strictly medical perspective, therefore, the leading cause of death among women and other serious medical ailments can be largely prevented by requiring the HPV shots for teenage girls. Medically and scientifically, in short, there no real debate.