Ever since the sad death in 2009 of a girl soon after getting the HPV cervical cancer vaccine and the irresponsible reporting in its aftermath, there has been a lot of irrational fear among the public regarding the treatment.
And while the death was proven to have no link with the vaccine, it was always going to be hard to sway the public’s sentiment back in favour of it.
That’s because perception is sometimes more important than reality.
And the story, as British tabloids reported it, seized the imagination of both schools and the teens who went there, putting the vaccine in a negative light.
But there are other sides to the fear of the vaccine as well.
HPV has dozens of different strains and mutants that are dangerous.
And more than 90% of cervical cancers occur due to it.
But even drugs that were proven time and time again to be effective against it were opposed.
For instance, there was the vaccine Gardasil.
It had a remarkable rate of infection prevention success.
But it still faced a tonne of opposition legally in Europe and the US, where the vaccination levels remained well below the optimum.
There are two sides to why people were against it.
The first is a moral narrative.
This narrative is more prominent in the US, where conservative segments feel sex is an issue worth tackling more than the virus.
The twisted side of the argument is that it induces a different type of fear than the media frenzy did back in 2009.
This other kind of fear is what conservatives think is healthy: that the concern of getting genital warts or worse, cervical cancer would stand in the way of widespread promiscuity.
But all of this argument flies right in the face of what evidence points to
Abstinence programs tend to backfire.
They result in even more pregnancies and complications.
On the other hand, those who receive the vaccine generally know more about the health issues surrounding HPV and act more carefully as a result.
This may sound counterintuitive to conservatives (and hence hard to accept).
Still, it’s true, and studies have proven that there isn’t a significant difference in sexual activity of vaccinated versus unvaccinated females.
The media’s irrationality seems to have transferred to anti-vaccine voices outside of journalism.
Anecdotes work in both scenarios.
False claims that the vaccine causes anything more than side-effects typical of vaccines in general (nausea and such) have been rampant.
The result is so many dangerous myths that have spread around the world about the HPV.
And with COVID-19, there has been a steep drop in vaccination.
Thousands upon thousands of teens missed out on the jab.
The closing of schools, of course, didn’t help the cause.
But there is more to the drop in numbers than that.
There is still a reluctance based on misinformation.
And we must all do what we can to mitigate the risk of terrible health outcomes by doing everything we can to spread the word about the vaccine’s benefits.