Tuesday, February 27, 2007

HPV Vaccine Discussion on the NewsHour

The NewsHour on PBS aired a segment tonight, "New Study Stirs Debate over Mandatory Cervical Cancer Vaccination." The NewsHour health correspondent, Susan Dentzer addresses a new study of HPV infection rates, the HPV vaccine, and debate over making the vaccine mandatory. A transcript is available, as are audio versions via RealAudio and mp3 download.

The study mentioned above, released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that 1/3 of American women are infected with HPV by the age of 24, according to this article in the Washington Post. JAMA is providing the full-text of the article, "Prevalence of HPV Infection Among Females in the United States," for free on its website. According to the report, prevalence of HPV infection among women ages 14-19 was 24.5%. Interestingly, the two most frequently detected types of HPV were not those the Gardasil vaccine protects against, but were considered low-risk forms of the virus. There were no statistically significant differences in rates of each type of HPV found except for the greater frequency of those two low-risk forms. According to the study, "Overall, HPV types 6, 11, 16, or 18 were detected in 3.4% of the study participants, corresponding with 3.1 million females with prevalent infection with HPV types included in the quadrivalent HPV vaccine. Few participants (0.10%) had both HPV types 16 and 18 and none had all 4 HPV vaccine types. At least 1 of these 4 HPV types was detected in 6.2% (95% CI, 3.8%-10.3%) of females aged 14 to 19 years."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from a first time blogger!
My comment is; Why don't boys receive the same HPV vaccine as is being proposed for girls?? Isn't it true that it is boys who are spreading this HPV? Putting all responsibility on women for birth control etc. seems narrow minded to me.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you for your comment. Yes, it is true that boys and men can both contract HPV infections as well as transfer them to their partners. To answer your question, the FDA has only approved the vaccine thus far for use in girls. It is currently being tested in boys, and when those results become available, the FDA can consider whether to approve the vaccine for use in boys.

1:12 PM  
Blogger kas said...

I am also a first time blogger!

Alas, another reason why abstinence IS safe sex.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

kas - I would agree with you that abstinence is safer, but not that abstinence is sex! :) In my opinion, part of the problem with the "I won't vaccinate or talk about contraception/condoms because my child should be abstinent" argument is that most teens ultimately are not abstinent despite their parents' wishes, sexual assault can occur, and women can be abstinent until marriage and then contract the infection from their husbands (who are more likely to have had premarital sex). A recent report found that 74% of those who turned 15 between 1994-2003 had had premarital sex by age 20, so they're obviously not being protected by abstinence. Meanwhile, at least at least one study has suggested that non-penetrative genital contact (which many teens still consider "abstinence") is a plausible (although less likely) means of transmission of HPV.

Don't get me wrong - I have a number of concerns about the push to make the vaccine mandatory. However, I think hanging our hats on abstinence is a risky way to go, given the realities.

8:48 AM  

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