As a family physician I strongly support the recent letter to the editor calling for greater collective responsibility for immunizing children against preventable and potentially serious illnesses. The consequences of low immunization rates have been experienced in the current outbreak of measles in the U. S., Canada and Mexico.
The author makes the point that there might be a refusal rate of as low as 2 percent if there were a vaccine to prevent cancer. Fortunately there is such a vaccine, but unfortunately many young people in the U.S. have remained unimmunized. Since 2006, the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine has been recommended for girls (and for boys since 2011) in a three dose series beginning at age 11 or 12. HPV causes cervical cancer (and some other cancers). Approximately 11,000 women per year are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. with 4,400 annual deaths. HPV vaccine effectively prevents the 70 percent of cervical cancers caused by HPV strains in the historically available vaccine with a new enhanced vaccine just approved that has the potential to prevent 90 percent of HPV-caused cancers. And studies have shown no serious HPV vaccine safety concerns.
But despite the availability of this cancer-preventing vaccine, as of 2013 almost 43 percent of 13-17 year old girls and 65 percent of boys had not received even one of the three recommended doses. Everyone has the community responsibility and opportunity to limit and even eliminate death and disability-causing infectious diseases in children and adults through vaccination.
Dr. Kirk Gulden