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Sunday, March 29, 2009



Just saw this:

Very disconcerting stuff. I don't know if I'd worry about an HPV vaccine in itself... it's not just an assumption of promiscuity to recommend one, as girls can be sexual victims even if they do everything right. But even given this, the normal concerns about pushing vaccines and pharmaceuticals apply, and there seem to be plenty of reasons for concern with this one.

Nina Kenney

Thank you Mary Beth for an insightful article. Yes, Gardasil is unnecessary and dangerous.


OK, I'll be the contrarian.

First, here is where I'm coming from: I'm the son and husband of OB/GYNs, I'm the father of four daughters, and I take the moral teachings of the Church very seriously.

Let me start with Mary Beth's first article. I agree that cervical cancer is NOT a national health crisis and, therefore, the vaccine should not be mandatory. IT SHOULD BE UP TO PARENTS. But she presents the data in a misleading way to score points with her reader. One small example: she notes that, "It offers protection against only four of the 100 strains of HPV" True, but she doesn't mention that those four strains constitute 70% of all cervical cancer. OK, one more example. She write, "So even if all women everywhere were immunized and the vaccine were 100% effective, women would still die of cervical cancer." Sounds great. But so what? If 100% of people wear their seat belt, people would still die in traffic accidents. So no one should wear seat belts? This is a red herring. There are other examples, but I won't....ok, ok, I will. She writes, "HPV-related cervical cancer is very, very preventable. It is prevented when young women abstain from sexual activity." Again, sounds great, but it is flat wrong. Men can carry the virus. So, if one of my daughters is sexually pure on her wedding day, but marries a young man who was previously promiscuous (even once) before he had a "conversion" to sexual purity, he could easily be a carrier and my daughter could easily get HPV and, ultimately, cervical cancer. I'l stop there.

Mary Beth's second article is equally problematic. But I'll just note a few things. First, she provides little to no actual, clinical evidence for her claims about the drug's safety (or lack thereof). 15 young women have died from the vaccine? Says who? She cites the CBS Evening News. Uh, OK. Remember the Year of the Shark? I'm not buying this on their say-so. Second, she says there is a 300% increase in hospital visits. 300% of what? That is important to determine the statistic's significance. If the rate of hospital visits for other vaccines is .005%, then a 300% increase is still statistically very small. Additionally, why did they go to the ER? Were they admitted? Any follow-up care? My wife once had a pregnant patient go to the ER because they were "exposed" to an artificial Christmas tree (no kidding). Oh, I could go on, but I'm tired of typing.

I don't know if we'll get our four girls (so far) vaccinated or not. But as I educate myself, Mary Beth's articles won't be helpful.

I read Insight Scoop a couple times a day & this is beneath the quality of article I've come to expect.


I am the parent of a 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old daughter and have experienced great pressure from two different (female) pediatricians in our group practice to get this vaccine.

I had been aware of the vaccine for some time, even before the Gardasil ads took to the airwaves, and already had the impression that it was heavily marketed by the pharmaceutical firms. Also, I have not been persuaded that it has been adequately tested before putting it on the market. Those concerns, plus the fact that we are talking about a sexually-transmitted virus, persuaded me to hold off on this vaccine for my girls for now (in my rudimentary risk-benefit analysis, the risks were winning).

However, I can't tell you how pushy these doctors were. They ignored my stated concerns, my presence in the exam room and my clearly-stated decision--to lobby my girls directly to get this vaccine! This took me by surprise, since I had presumed that my wishes would be respected. I won't be returning to either doctor and will instead book appointments with other peds in the group who have a track record of accepting parent input on this issue.

I think therecusant makes a fair point or two. One of the factors in favor of the vaccine is the fact that girls can live a pure life and still get this disease later from a spouse/partner who made bad decisions at a younger age.

Still, is the risk of possible very negative side effects worth it in the long run? I am certain I am not the only parent who experienced the hard sell in this area (not to mention the ads themselves, which are aimed squarely at young girls).



So, if one of my daughters is sexually pure on her wedding day, but marries a young man who was previously promiscuous (even once) before he had a "conversion" to sexual purity, he could easily be a carrier and my daughter could easily get HPV and, ultimately, cervical cancer.

Would the fact that your daughter's fiance be a carrier show up in a blood test? If so, your daughter could ask this young man to have a blood test before they got serious.

My daughter asked her now husband to have a blood test before they became engaged; she had one also.



Those physicians should be ashamed of themselves.

As far as the vaccine, it is a personal decision. As I wrote in my first post, I'm not sure we'll vaccinate our four daughters. My point, I guess, is that very few parents (pro or con vaccination) are making their choices on the hard science of risk vs. reward. IMHO, I'm not convinced there are "very negative side effects." But I'm certainly open to the possibility - and I'll be sure I find out before we have to make a decision regarding our girls. In the meantime, half-truths and baseless accusations simply muddy the water.

Finally, did you or anyone see the Stephen Colbert "Year of the Coconut" spoof? Priceless. Enjoy:


half-truths and baseless accusations simply muddy the water.

I totally agree. I don't have a science background and I rely on scientists and the people who translate their results into language that the rest of us can uderstand do so accurately and without bias.


Thanks, therecusant, I think you make great points.

I think the point about innocent victims is especially important to make. We have become so ardent (and rightly so, don't get me wrong) about sexual purity that we sometimes mistakenly see these issues as purely problems of promiscuity and immorality. Pre-marital blood tests are a good idea for flagging potential concerns, but the concerns still need to be dealt with once they are identified. I don't know enough about the timetable of this vaccine to know whether it's feasible for young women about to be married (it seems that they're targeting pre-teens, from what I've read).

Also, entirely beyond a consensual and wedlocked sexual partnership, there is always the possibility of rape. A shocking number of women face this at some point in their lives. It's not something that I thought about much, but when an experience like this hits close to home... well, you start to think about it more.


CV, I appreciate your comments about doctor interactions. We're dealing not with HPV, but with the initial round of vaccines for our almost-1-year-old daughter. We intend to give her vaccines, but we are waiting a bit; there seems no reason for us to overwhelm her with shots while her immune system is still developing, and we're going to give her the appropriate vaccines over the next year or two.

I'd say the doctors have been polite- they haven't been overly pushy. But they do give you odd, concerned looks... they give you stacks of pamphlets and make you sign release forms saying that you are not giving your child vaccines and doing so against the doctor's advice. There's even language in the stuff we sign to the tune of, "I acknowledge that I am putting my child at risk..." And we're not even in the "no vaccines!" camp- we're just waiting until her system has developed a bit more.

All that's to say, I can sympathize with the difficulties of navigating this whole vaccine business. The tough thing is, I think, that we lay people aren't especially educated about these medical issues and (those of us who are honest) don't claim to be. But when pharmaceutical companies and doctors are so adamant, it's difficult to even raise questions or concerns. It's no wonder that conspiracy theories get spun about pushing these products... even where they're not true, there's little room for questioning the received protocol. It makes parents nervous, and rightly so.

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