Nancy Brajtbord, RN, (L) administers a shot of gardasil, a Human Papillomavirus vaccine, to a 14-year old patient (who does not wish to be named) in
Nancy Brajtbord, RN, (L) administers a shot of gardasil, a Human Papillomavirus vaccine, to a 14-year old patient (who does not wish to be named) in Dallas. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi) (© Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters)

A relatively new vaccine is working wonders despite a low adoption rate in the United States.

The vaccine against the HPV virus — a sexually transmitted disease — has been found to cut infections in teen girls by more than half.

The infection rate for teens ages 14-19 has dropped from about 12 percent before 2006 to about 5 percent. That's a nearly 60 percent decline in infections among all teens, including those who didn't get the vaccine.

Among girls who received the vaccine, the infections dropped 88 percent.

(There is no data yet on the efficacy of immunization for boys, which was not recommended until late 2011.)

This is vitally important news because HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and also has been linked to other sexually transmitted cancers in both men and women.

An estimated 15,000 cases of HPV-related cancer each year among U.S. women might be prevented with widespread adoption of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are about 7,000 cases of cancer cases annually among U.S. men that could be prevented.

The good news is how effective the vaccine has proven in actual use.

The bad news is the relatively low rate of adoption in the United States, with only an estimated one-third of girls getting the full three-shot immunization dosage.

Although the vaccine has been shown to be safe, it has not been widely accepted, largely because parents fear opening the issue of sexuality with their preteens. Vaccination is recommended at ages 11-12, in part because it predates most sexual activity, but also because the vaccine produces more antibodies in younger children and, thus, is more effective.

Despite parental fears, a recent study showed administration of the vaccine had no effect on the rate of sexual activity.

We've said it before, but it bears repeating, especially with this new evidence about the value of this vaccine, that it is a mistake to delay HPV vaccination if you value your child's health.

The Kinsey Institute says about a quarter of all American children have had sex by the time they are 15 years old. It would be foolish to play a guessing game about the matter. Vaccination is the right thing to do for your children.