The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sneaky danger. According to data by the NIH, 1 in 4 Americans are infected: many do not show any symptoms, so they may obliviously infect others. There are 120 different types of HPV: they spread via sexual contact, and many cause cancer: it’s estimated that HPV is responsible for 99.7% of cervical cancers, and most cases of throat cancer in men. It really looks like an epidemic. So why there is no unanimity in making vaccination against human papillomavirus mandatory?
The FDA approved 2 vaccines in 2006: Gardasil (that acts against 4 types of HPV) and Cervarix (against 2 types). To be immune, one should receive three doses of the vaccine before sexual maturity (or before any possibility to contract the virus). The vaccination campaign was therefore aimed at girls of 9 years of age and up, but 2012 data from the CDC show that only half of American girls had access to a dose of the drug. Moreover, only 34% received all 3 doses, assuring effective immunization. And this could be possible because a public health issue became a political controversy.
In 2011, the proposal for a mandatory vaccination against HPV in Texas ignited a debate between Republicans and Democrats. According to the former, the HPV vaccines promoted sexual promiscuity among underage teens; to the latter, there were doubts on the safety of the vaccine Gardasil, because of incomplete data provided by the pharmaceutical Merck.
Even in Europe, where the debate over these vaccines was not politically polarized, some confilcts emerged due to the sexual connotation of the problem. A report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control states that the vaccination rate is still lower than expected, even though there is scientific proof that the arguments against HPV vaccine are misguided.