HPV Infections Fell By Half In Teen Girls After Vaccine, Study Shows

Source: JoNel Aleccia / NBC News

Infections with the human papillomavirus tied to cervical cancer fell by more than half in U.S. teen girls after the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, despite high-profile controversy — and low rates of uptake, a new study shows.

Government health officials said Wednesday that the new data should encourage wider acceptance of the vaccine, which became a lighting rod for political controversy almost from the moment it was implemented.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a 2007 executive order mandating that all sixth-grade girls be required to get HPV vaccinations, a move he later disavowed, and in 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann ignited a firestorm by raising questions about the safety of the vaccine and whether it could cause “mental retardation.”

Even now, only about a third of U.S. teen girls ages 13 to 17 have had the full series of shots that prevent HPV infection, despite repeated studies that show the vaccine is safe and effective, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other countries, including places such as Rwanda, have higher HPV vaccination rates than the U.S., he added.

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