On my drive home last night, I encountered Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” program out of BU radio (right here if you want to hear the whole thing). I usually can’t take a full hour of Tom Ashbrook (now strategically placed opposite Christopher Lydon on ‘GBH, so you can flip between them until you can’t tell them apart anymore…) because he interrupts people and has an affinity for talking about Iraq.
But last night he discussed HPV vaccines with the CDC, O Magazine, Focus on the Family, and a columnist for The Nation who at one point declared everyone’s fear of sex as “deeply disturbing.”
Overview: Merck has approval for an HPV vaccine, tested only on girls, which they are recommending be given to all females 11-26. It is shown to be effective against 70% of strains which cause cervical cancer.
I do not know how they tested this, or which lucky gals got to QA it. One assumes they were over 18.
And I have decided to subject the Readership to what I think about the whole thing. In outline form. Lucky you, Readership.
Should vaccines be mandatory?
I vote No.
The CDC rep reminded us many times that vaccines are not actually mandatory, and that the federal government has no authority to mandate public health in that manner, and apparently never did. Ashbrook pushed for someone to come out in favor of that – one caller actually said make it mandatory, only you can opt out. Which, caller, means “optional.”
I have a smallpox scar, and so do many of you. I also ate the Salk sugar cube, (and have a distinct memory of confusing it in my child’s Summer of Love brain with dropping acid, so if you’re wondering how much children pick up from TV when it is on… a lot.) I had always felt secure about being smallpox free, until after smallpox was eradicated and the CDC now tells me that I probably am not immune anymore.
We like to think of long lines of citizens waiting in high school gyms to share a needle gun with each other in the name of public health. We did not really have that kind of a government as much as we were that kind of society.
As one of the panelists commented, children should be immunized against things they can catch from other children in crowded classrooms. HPV is not one of them.
Would you have your daughter immunized?
My reasons are simple. They are named DES and Thalidomide.
I also don’t have a daughter, so I speak in such absolutes. I acknowledge that this is a harder debate if you do.
Merck brought us Ecstasy and Vioxx. And they write veterinary manuals.
They also own the domain hpv.org.
I don’t say they are in it for the money, but they do have a $253 Million settlement to pay.
Incidentally, thehpvtest.com is owned by Digene. DrawingIn recommends cancer.org.
Does immunization send a message that it is ok to have sex now?
But Ashbrook was hell-bent to get someone to say so. Even Focus on the Family wouldn’t go that far, though their rep did refer to a caller with cervical cancer as having “made bad choices.”
Teenage girls do not avoid sex out of fear of HPV. They are only marginally worried about pregnancy, and mostly worried about “looking slutty,” but they have sex anyway.
The HPV vaccine won’t protect her from STDs, or from cancer. It will protect her from 4 strains of a virus as common as the cold, which is transmited sexually, and in about 10,000 women per year, leads to a specific type of cancer. So she’ll still need a pap smear. Sorry.
Best comment of the night was the caller who suggested that parents do not avoid the tetanus shot out of fear that their children will now run through fields of rusty nails. I wish I'd said that.
Well sure. But no more than the usual injected vaccine. So theyve got that going for them.
More interesting for you might be that it is over $300 per shot, and you need 3 of them in one year.
how long does it last?
The longest trial so far is 4 years. Let’s say that’s as long as the protection lasted. The vaccinated 11 year old may be vulnerable again just in time for the Prom.
What about the boys?
Still testing. As usual, ladies, take care of the public health concerns while we invent ways for erections to last longer. We’ll get back to you.