Australia On Course To Wipe Out Cervical Cancer Due To HPV Vaccine

Thanks in large part to an aggressive public health education program and vaccination, Australia is on course to effectively eradicate cervical cancer.

Thanks to an aggressive vaccination program, Australia is set to become the first nation to effectively wipe out cervical cancer:

Cervical cancer is set to become a rare disease in Australia within just two years and rendered so uncommon by 2028 it will be deemed eliminated as a public health problem for the first time anywhere in the world.

The new forecast has been detailed in research in the Lancet Public Health Journal, which found that although global deaths from the disease still exceed 310,000 each year, Australia is heading towards a scenario where cervical cancer would be almost unheard of.

The positive prediction has been largely credited to the introduction a decade ago of the world-leading national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program for schoolchildren, but key changes began in 1991 with the beginning of the country’s pap smear program.

In the decades afterwards, cervical cancer rates in women dropped about 50 per cent, as abnormalities were identified before they developed.

The incidence of cervical cancer in Australia now stands at seven cases per 100,000, about half the global average.

Now research from Cancer Council NSW argues the most dramatic improvements are still to come, as the first recipients of the early HPV vaccination program begin to reach their mid thirties.

In just two years, cervical cancer could be officially considered a rare cancer in Australia, with six new cases per 100,000 women annually.

If current practices continue, the disease will be all but eradicated by 2066, when there will be about one case per 100,000. By 2100 there would be just three deaths per million women (compared to 21 deaths per million, or about 260 deaths each year today).

Professor Ian Frazer, the co-inventor of the technology behind the HPV vaccine, said he expected that in time cervical cancer would be completely eliminated from Australia and the world.

“Because this human papillomavirus only infects humans and the vaccine program prevents the spread of the virus, eventually we’ll get rid of it, like we did with smallpox,” Professor Frazer said.

“It’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but it could happen in the lifetime of my kids if they go about it the right way.”

One of the biggest reasons for this appears to be an aggressive vaccination program that the Australian government has undertaken ever since the vaccine became widely available and certified for use. Beginning in 20o7, for example, the government began offering a free vaccination program for girls between the age of 12 and 13, and expanded the program to boys in 2013. While the leading edge of the recipients of that program are still just beginning to enter their 20s, it seems apparent that this, along with people who have gotten the vaccine later in life, is a substantial part of the reason for what clearly seems to be the fact that Australia is on the glide path toward effective eradication of the Human Papilloma Virus, which has been documented to be the cause of 90% of cervical cancers and which has also been linked to certain forms of oral and other cancers in men. While this is not 100% of the reason behind this cancer, it is close enough to make sure that kids get the vaccine before they become sexually active seem axiomatic.

Here in the United States, of course, the issues surrounding the HPV vaccine have been more complicated. Many parents appear to be reluctant to get the shot for their pre-teen children because they fear that it is sending the signal of condoning sexual activity at a young age even though teenagers hardly need the availability of a vaccine to make them experiment with sex even when they are obviously too young about it. Additionally, the issue of government being involved in a vaccination program for HPV is one that has faced objection from religious conservatives for basically the same reason.

This issue got national attention during the race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. Five years earlier in 2007, former Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an Executive Order that mandated that all girls in the state get the HPV vaccine before entering the sixth grade. While the program did offer some exemptions if parents objected, social conservatives were not pleased with the order because they claimed it would promote sexual activity at any early age. The program went into effect in 2008, but was overridden by Perry’s by the Texas Legislature less than a year after he signed it, a measure which Perry allowed to become law rather than exercising a veto, and the issue was basically forgotten. When he became a candidate for President in 2011, though, Perry came under attack for his decision to sign the Executive Order from several of his fellow Republican candidates such as Michele Bachmann as well as other conservatives such as Sarah Palin. Ultimately, Perry issued a mea culpa regarding his initial Executive Order, but that still leaves the issue of the HPV vaccine itself hanging out there,

It’s unclear from the news reports if the Australian program is mandatory, although this website run by the national government appears to suggest that it is not. Instead, it appears that the government has relied on a strong public education program much like the one implemented in New Hampshire around the same time that former Governor Perry issued his Executive Order. In Australia, the result of the education campaign is that 79% of girls aged 15 have received the vaccine and 73% of boys have received the vaccine as well. In New Hampshire, the rate is 69.9% according to the most recently available information, one of the highest HPV vaccination rates in the country. All of this is good news, of course, and suggests that wider adoption of these kinds of public education campaigns, directed at both parents and young teens, would go a long way toward helping to substantially reduce, and hopefully one day eliminate, cervical cancer from the face of the planet.

FILED UNDER: Government, Health, Health Care, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Yes but now there are hordes of hormonal teenagers rampaging thru the Australian outback having consequence free happy sexy time and that’s JUST PLAIN WRONG!!! If one has sex, one must SUFFER for it!!!

    Hence, the institution of marriage. 😉

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  2. grumpy realist says:

    The idea to have the vaccine at such a young age is that you want it BEFORE you become sexually active.

    Any so-called conservative who thinks that jabbing a kid in the arm with a vaccine is going to make them have sex must have a REALLY weird sex life. I suspect something with whips and razors.

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  3. Slugger says:

    I intend no disrespect, but the Palin family strikes me as a good example of the sexual behavior of actual human beings. Uninformed and naive sexual activity is common especially before the attainment of legal majority. If sex resulted only as a consequence of thoughtful mature behavior, then the need for this vaccine would be much less. Of course, there is good news in the decline in teenage pregnancy that we are seeing as a result of sex education in America. What passes for conservative thought on sexual matters does not address the actions of real people on this earth.

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  4. wr says:

    Hey, be fair. It’s no fun for coaches, doctors and future Supreme Court justices to rape teenage girls if they can’t give them cancer.

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  5. Kathy says:

    Conservatism: the morbid fear that somewhere some teenagers may be having sex.

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  6. gVOR08 says:

    Shows what can be done if government proceeds rationally, unencumbered by RWNJs and fundies, i.e. the Republican Party.

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  7. Guarner says:

    I find it difficult to describe this effort as anything other than an unqualified success. It’s too bad commenters here feel the need to engage in inane and juvenile sniping rather than applauding a true advancement against a serious disease.

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  8. Scott says:

    I live in Texas and I remember the controversy. Part of the controversy was that the lobbyist for Merck was Mike Toomey who used to be Perry’s Chief of Staff. So add a whiff of corruption to the fear of sex by children. My kids received this vaccine early. I highly doubt they remember. It was just one of many given out during their physicals. And they certainly don’t associate it with sex.

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  9. Grewgills says:

    @Guarner
    It is certainly a true advancement against a serious disease and one that we should replicate here in the states. Why do you think it is we haven’t and we won’t?

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Guarner: ???? You actually object to our pointing out the simple fact that conservatives are the sole reason we can’t replicate this result here? Really?

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  11. Guarneri says:

    I’m relatively conservative, and I don’t object. And I don’t know of any like minded conservatives who do or would.

    Maybe your time would be better spent organizing an effort rather than spewing garbage on some website reflective of the demons in your head.

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  12. steve says:

    “I’m relatively conservative, and I don’t object. And I don’t know of any like minded conservatives who do or would.”

    Because you have no real contact with the religious right, your base voters. If you did you would know that many, if not most, do object to these vaccinations. Go talk with the pediatricians who work in those areas.

    Steve

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  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Guarneri: Steve’s response was too easy; you need to up your game or turn in your Troll card. I would suggest you stay in economic policy, where you at least have Zero Hedge to back you up. This kind of social policy stuff is out of your wheelhouse.

    (Maybe you’ve been misrepresenting yourself all along and DO live in your mom’s basement.)

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Guarneri:

    I’m relatively conservative, and I don’t object.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHHAHA….

    And I don’t know of any like minded conservatives who do or would.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….

    Even trump can lie better than that.

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