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I’m not normally one to agree with Governor of Texas Rick Perry, but when it comes to mandating HPV vaccines, it looks like he was on the right track.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that the prevalence of dangerous strains of the human papillomavirus has dropped by half among teenage girls in recent years.  The vaccine, which was introduced in 2006, prevents infection from the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and one of the leading causes of cervical cancer.  While the United States has low vaccination rates (33%) compared to countries like Denmark, Britain, and Rwanda (all with 80% of greater vaccination rates), infection with the viral strains that the vaccine protects against have dropped to 3.6% from 7.2% in 2006.

But before we start congratulating Rick Perry and patting public health professionals on the back, there is some work to be done.  According to a March study in the journal Pediatrics, 44% of parents in 2010 said they did not intend to vaccinate their daughters, an increase from 40% in 2008.  And more importantly, what about vaccination rates for boys?  Because the vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection, it comes with a stigma, and some parents worry that it promotes promiscuity.  And let’s not forget Michele Bachmann’s terrible misspeak that the vaccine caused one woman’s daughter to become mentally retarded.

But the evidence from the CDC suggests that the vaccine is doing exactly what it should be doing, even with our country’s low vaccination rates.  If only Rick Perry had succeeded in getting his mandate passed…

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