Would America Take A Cancer Vaccine?

Would America Take A Cancer Vaccine?


Leonard Zwelling

Well under 50% of the people eligible to be vaccinated against human papilloma virus infection are so vaccinated. This shot, usually Gardisil 9 in the United States, could, if fully deployed, eliminate cervical cancer and have a huge impact on the incidence of anal, head and neck and other cancers linked to the sexual transmission of the many types of this virus. In other words, modern biomedical science has developed a vaccine that will prevent several human cancers and less than half of the people who would benefit have availed themselves of a chance to avoid a potentially fatal malignancy.

These facts should come as no surprise in a country where the novel coronavirus pandemic could be virtually ended if everyone would get the shot. But, no! Around half of the people who would benefit from the covid vaccine have chosen not to be vaccinated. It makes you wonder. If medicine can actually synthesize a way to eliminate a fatal disease and thousands of people show no interest, why are we bothering?

First, we are bothering for the people who do use the vaccinations. Second, we never lose hope that the persuadable middle will come around and get themselves vaccinated. Third, the covid vaccine has already prevented a great deal of death and disease even if it has not been fully successful.

On the other hand, it suggests that even if modern medicine did derive a way to eliminate cancer as a threat to Americans, many would choose to ignore the opportunity to be safe. Again, this should be no surprise. Approximately 20% of adults still smoke when that activity has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. No number of public service ads has managed to conquer the tobacco industry’s preying on young people and getting them hooked on nicotine.

So what’s the answer?

I think we have to focus on the young. Part of the education of every child in America is what that child can do to keep himself or herself healthy and that has to include what to do (vaccinations) and what not to do (smoke).

For forty years I had always assumed that once science was able to truly eliminate cancer as a risk for people, the people would celebrate. This was based on my experience as a seven-year old when the Salk vaccine first became available and every parent rushed their children to be vaccinated. But that was in an era when the people trusted the government. After all, it was the government that won the Second World War. The government was a force for good then. Now, after Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Contra, 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan, it should come as no surprise that the American people no longer trust their own elected leaders and certainly not the appointed ones. It may seem like politics, but those politics are killing people. That vaccination against a potentially fatal disease whether covid or cervical cancer should be deemed political or the sexual nature of the transmission of HPV keeps people away from the vaccine because parents view the vaccine as a license for pre-marital sexual activity, is actually leading to unnecessary death.

As a physician and former researcher, this is beyond sad. This is tragic.

Do you think if the FDA approved a vaccine that would prevent breast cancer, all the eligible women in America would take it? I don’t. This is really depressing.

What if a tree fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it? Did it make a noise? What if a cancer prevention strategy was developed and was shown to actually save lives? It has been. And yet…

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