A spokeswoman for the Family Research Council (FRC) says young women should have to deal with the consequences of a rapidly spreading sexually transmitted disease rather then rely on a new vaccine.
The FRC’s Bridget Maher said her group believes over-reliance on the vaccine for the human papilloma virus (HPV) could send the wrong message to young women. “Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,” Maher told New Scientist. “Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”
More than half of all sexually active people may carry the virus, which can cause outbreaks of genital warts. Although not considered as serious as syphilis or gonorrhea, HPV is rapidly spreading in the population. Many people who get it never show symptoms, but some forms can increase a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. Condoms are not considered completely effective in blocking transmission of HPV.
Wrote New Scientist, “HPV is extremely common. Half of all sexually active women between 18 and 22 in the U.S. are infected. Most cases clear up, but sometimes infection persists and can cause cancer decades later.”
Two pharmaceutical companies, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, have developed vaccines that immunize against HPV infection. Merck has proposed giving the vaccine routinely to young women as they enter high school.
If public opinion is any guide, the Religious Right will lose this fight. New Scientist cited a poll finding that 80 percent of parents would vaccinate their daughters against HPV if they had the opportunity.