Vaccines Drop HPV Rate, But There's Still Room for Improvement

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The 2006 introduction of the human papillomavirus vaccine, commonly known as HPV, caused quite a stir with both strong political support (Texas Governor Rick Perry mandated that all sixth-grade girls are required to get vaccinated, an executive order later revoked) and opposition (Michelle Bachman questioned if it could cause mental retardation). Today, seven years after the vaccine's introduction, it's become quite a few more than 'one' less. Rates of HPV in teenage girls has plummeted to nearly half, according to a new study.

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Vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix, which are given in three doses over the course of six months, have dropped the HPV rate by 56 percent for girls between ages 14 and 19. For the most common sexually transmitted infection, this is big news. Still, there's strides to be made in protecting young women against HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer. Today, only a third of teenage girls in the United States are getting vaccinated — even Rwanda has a higher rate than we do, according to the CDC. There's plenty of reasons to get that number up: The virus has been implicated in causing over 28,000 cancer cases each year alone. The real kicker? According to the CDC, 21,000 of said cases could have been prevented with a vaccination.

"The bottom line is this: It is possible to protect the next generation from cancer, and we need to do it." said Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC. With three shots reducing reduce cancer risk by 96 percent (which clinical trials suggest), we're inclined to agree.

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