It remains to be seen how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will handle the approval process of a new batch of vaccines that target human papillomavirus, which causes most cases of cervical cancer, the second biggest cancer killer in women. Some religious conservatives have objected to administering such vaccines to girls and young women. These conservatives fear that reducing their fears of infection will encourage young umarried women to be more promiscuous. Apparently in order to boost the chances of chastity, they would prefer that women be vaccinated later in life.
Now a new study finds that at least one vaccine (not yet submitted to the FDA) produces an immune response that is twice as strong if it's injected between ages 10 and 14, rather than between ages 15 and 25. The Plan B emergency contraceptive fiasco, in which the FDA's political appointees blocked approval of the drug for over-the-counter sale despite the overwhelming support of its scientific panels, is a worrisome precedent. In that case, too, the fear was that the availability of Plan B would encourage unmarried women to engage in sex. So when the new cervical cancer vaccine is submitted to the FDA, will the agency choose chastity or science?