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Political Shots and Scare Tactics

September 22, 2011

As a new mom, I’m no stranger to “vaccine nuttiness”, as I like to call it.  Even if I had never heard of any controversies surrounding vaccines before my daughter was born, any visit to the pediatrician’s office leaves me unable to remain unaware.  There are blown-up images of scholarly articles proclaiming the safety and effectiveness of all childhood vaccines in the waiting room, in the exam rooms, in the hallways, with a particular emphasis on the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. 

My first introduction to vaccine nuttiness, however, had nothing to do with the fraudulent claim that vaccines somehow cause autism.  It was, instead, hearing that some people thought administering an HPV vaccine to their 12-year-old daughter could possibly make her run right out and start having lots and lots of sex.  Now, we have a candidate for President of the United States taking as true, without investigation, the idea that a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer  is “dangerous” and can cause “mental retardation”.  It’s irresponsible and un-presidential.

It is past time to set the record straight about HPV and the HPV vaccine.  HPV is the human papilloma virus, and it is passed by skin-to-skin contact.  Approximately 20 million Americans are infected with some form of HPV; there are more than 100 forms.  Some forms are basically harmless, others cause genital warts and still others cause cervical cancer.  Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths among women.  In the U.S., about 13,000 women are diagnosed each year, and about 4,000 will die of the disease.  In some cases, HPV can develop into warts and cancer in both women and men.  Two effective and safe vaccines exist to protect against the forms of HPV that cause cervical cancer; one of them (Gardasil) also protects against the forms of HPV that cause genital warts.  In other words, there are not one, but two vaccines that protect against a common form of cancer.  Both vaccines are FDA-approved and are on the CDC’s list of recommended vaccines.  Leading medical groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support girls’ getting the vaccine. 

In order to gain this level of support from government and medical bodies, the vaccine, like all new drugs, went through an extensive testing process (which typically takes a decade or longer).  Once a vaccine is in use, both the CDC and the FDA continuously monitor any possible adverse effects.  If you’ve ever taken a child to get a vaccine, the vaccine information sheets have information about a hotline to call to report adverse effects – not for medical attention, but so that the authorities can check into it and see whether it’s a coincidence or may be directly related to the vaccine itself. 

It is unconscionable for any presidential candidate to play politics with women’s health, through the kinds of statements that both Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum have made.  Using scare tactics about the HPV vaccine simply plays into the idea that female sexuality needs to be controlled and policed, an all-too-common idea. 

The reality is, about six million people in the U.S. are infected with HPV each year. In some cases, HPV can develop into warts and cancer in both women and men. And, every year, 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 4,000 American women die of the disease.  Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

Falsely attacking an effective vaccine isn’t going to eradicate cervical cancer.  Having our daughters vaccinated against one of the main causes of cervical cancer, however, is the first step to eradicating it, and I plan to do just that.  It’s time for all the GOP presidential candidates to repudiate the scare tactics and stick to the facts when it comes to women’s health and the HPV vaccine.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Josie permalink
    September 24, 2011 1:00 am

    I also believe that since there is still no screening process for boys and with out knowing can transmit the virus, should also be vaccinated since it is approved for use in both the USA and UK . I dont particularly like Rick Perry,but i liked this mandate, and i think it should be givin to all pre-teens or teens before entering school just like the chickenpox. thanks for sharing this

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