One of the unquestionable successes of humanity is the pursuit and application of knowledge. This process is applied in engineering, food production, communications, transport, and nearly every other aspect of our lives — and in our death too.
One of the areas where this dynamic is at its sharpest is in medicine. In the last century, advances in how we treat certain illnesses and prevent others is nothing short of miraculous.
A diagnosis that, in 1919, was a death sentence is now no more than an inconvenience.
The announcement that cervical cancer could be eliminated by widespread HPV vaccination is another welcome consequence of the pursuit of knowledge and the endless voyage of liberation from the tyranny of unnecessary illness.
Scientists who reviewed studies of 60m people in affluent countries found vaccination was linked to a huge reduction in the two types of HPV— 16 and 18 — which cause 70% of cervical cancers. Rates among girls aged 13 to 19, toppled by up to 83%, while a reduction of 66% was found in women aged 20 to 24.
These figures signal an uncontestable good and make it increasingly hard to tolerate arguments against vaccination. The findings will re-energise the debate, or rather society’s indulgence, around the idea of mandatory vaccinations, especially in the case of dangerous contagious illnesses. Well-tested medical opinion is certain that vaccinations are of significant benefit to individuals and society. Polio has been consigned to history by blanket vaccination programmes.
Diseases such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, rubella, and cervical cancer can, to a reliable degree, be ruled out by a simple, no-tears childhood injection. In Ireland, campaigners want a better-safe-than-sorry smallpox vaccination introduced too.
The anti-vaccination movement, like those who say homosexuality can be cured, is one of the prices we pay for mass and often wild communication networks. The issue has been dodged for long enough and the usual “constitutional difficulties”
have been invoked. It is time we joined other clearheaded countries and put the common good ahead of the groundless fears of a vocal but tiny minority and made vaccinations a mandatory contribution by individuals to a healthy and secure society.