Friday I wrote about a series of stories coming out of the Tulsa World on the low vaccination rates in Oklahoma, but upon reflection something about it was bothering me. None of the stories had specific numbers associated with them, even though they all quoted Dr. Paul Darden of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
I went looking for some other quotes from Darden on this subject where he cited numbers. Turns out that Darden just finished a study on immunization rates for the HPV, meningitis and TDAP vaccines. The study was published on March 18 in Pediatrics.
Darden and colleagues examined the rates of vaccination, and the reasons people gave for not being current with their childrens’ vaccines. It turns out that the actual number of people who are current on their vaccines improved or stayed the same (depending on the vaccine) from 2008-2010, but there was one bad trend. The number of parents reporting that they didn’t intend to get their child one of the recommended vaccines was HPV for daughters. That number rose from 39.8% in 2008 to 43.9% in 2010.
The irony of all of this is that the fact that the study was about HPV is probably why the Tulsa World didn’t talk about the numbers in Darden’s study. HPV has a stigma in a conservative state like ours because it prevents the spread of a sexually transmitted disease. For some reason, conservative parents seem to think that preventing cervical cancer is the same thing as telling their angelic daughters to go have sex. When the Tulsa World writes an editorial about vaccines citing Darden without ever mentioning HPV, they’re implicitly bowing to and promoting that stigma.
Instead, the Tulsa World should be writing editorials explaining that most people will have multiple partners in their lifetime, and more than half of the people who are sexually active will catch HPV. Girls don’t get HPV because they are sluts. Most people get it, and just because your daughter decides to wait until marriage doesn’t mean you should be trusting the guy she’s waiting for.
I’m not advocating for the Tulsa World to actually move into the 21st Century and advocate for people to have a healthy attitude about sex in a sexually screwed-up state like Oklahoma, but let’s at least give people the accurate numbers and help them come to informed, if stupidly-misguided, decisions.
Oklahoma blogger and research scientist Abbie Smith has written several times about how great the HPV vaccine is over on ERV. In short, it is a vaccine for cancer, and it works wonders. Also, the HPV vaccine isn’t just for girls. It can prevent throat cancer in men and women.
Please, vaccinate your damn teenagers…and let’s cut it out with the stigma surrounding the HPV vaccine. It prevents a type of cancer in people who have sex. People like your mom and dad.