It's shameful and irresponsible that Utah parents are failing to get their children vaccinated against the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer and other diseases.
And it's even more irresponsible that David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Public Department of Health that oversees clinics in five Utah counties, has decided not to stock the Gardasil vaccine and will not recommend it to residents of his region.
William Cosgrove, a Murray pediatrician and member of the Utah Scientific Immunization Advisory Committee, rightly called this senior health official's unilateral decision to minimize the benefits of the life-saving vaccine "highly unethical." We agree wholeheartedly.
For decades people around the globe have hoped for a vaccine to prevent cancer. Gardasil has the ability to do just that in the case of cervical cancer, yet only 42 percent of girls in the Beehive State have completed the three-injection vaccination series the lowest rate in the nation. The national rate is 71 percent, according to the National Immunization Survey.
Blodgett as much as admitted to the reason for the low participation when he said, "The backlash and sentiment against it was strong enough that there's no reason to go there. No one wants it and it's too expensive when we're not funded to provide it." But private insurance covers the shots, and they are provided free of charge to low-income families and public health clinics through the federal Vaccines for Children program.
The "backlash and sentiment" stem from a lack of education about the benefits of the vaccine and the misguided notion that vaccinating young girls and boys 11 and 12 years old against a sexually transmitted form of cancer will promote promiscuity. Blodgett should be remedying this ignorance, not encouraging it.
But instead, Blodgett made the decision on his own not to stock the HPV vaccine years ago, so residents of Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Kane and Washington counties have less access to this potentially life-saving cancer-prevention vaccine. That, despite the fact Gardasil is safe and more than 95 percent effective at preventing four sexually transmitted viruses responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts and also proven effective at preventing throat, penile and anal cancers.
Cosgrove said that adolescents face "an 80 percent chance of being infected by one or more of these viruses" during their lives.
Blodgett should lose his job for denying them a way to prevent these awful diseases.