[Editor’s note: The following is part of an interview with US National Cancer Institute virologist John Schiller, whose research provided the basis for the HPV vaccine.]
Imagine a vaccine that protects against more than a half-dozen types of cancer—and has a decade of data and experience behind it. We have one. It’s the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and it was approved for the U.S. market back in June 2006. It can prevent almost all cervical cancers and protect against cancers of the mouth, throat and anus.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their safety and effectiveness, in some developed countries—including the U.S.—HPV inoculations face opposition from individuals and groups that fear the shots are still too new and unproved to use on their children.
So, what can be done?
My feeling is that there is a certain percentage of people who, no matter what facts you present to them, they are just not going to be convinced. Quite frankly it doesn’t pay to spend a lot of resources trying to convince that relatively small fraction. What we need to focus on is a much larger fraction of the population who aren’t having their kids vaccinated for reasons like convenience—like it’s a hassle—or they just need a bit more information to make them comfortable.
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