It began with the commercials, those relentless television commercials portraying women who were surprised to learn of cancer caused by a virus. To be more specific, the women in the commercials were speaking about cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The commercials urged women to talk to their doctors about pap tests and spread the word about the virus. It was a clever marketing scheme to be sure. After the commercials had succeeded in terrifying the general public about cervical cancer low and behold, a vaccine was suddenly available to protect against the now dreaded HPV virus. Perhaps if it had stopped there, we could even forgive the vaccine makers, however, as it did not stop there, it is an issue that must be addressed.
In 2007, Governor Rick Perry ordered that all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas were to be vaccinated against HPV. In short, Governor Perry mandated the mass experimentation of a new drug on dozens of eleven and twelve year old girls. Let us take a closer look at this disease that Governor Perry felt so concerned about “protecting” Texas’ youth against.
Despite what the commercials would have people believe, cervical cancer rates are declining as they have been doing for the last several decades. In addition, cervical cancer is often a very treatable disease when it is diagnosed early. There are multiple strains of HPV, only a few of which cause cervical cancer and even those few often leave exposed women unaffected. HPV is not contagious like the flu (which kills far more people than cervical cancer today); it is transmitted through sexual activity. In fact, studies published in a 1999 Cochrane Review have found that women who use condoms, avoid sex when they are young, and have fewer sexual partners are at a much lower risk for developing cervical cancer. Perhaps instead of forcing an HPV vaccine on children, the cost of which is over $300 per three-shot series, the time should be taken to keep a better eye on our children.
In addition to the fact that cervical cancer is growing more rare, the HPV vaccine itself presents certain questions. Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, only protects against four strains of HPV. While the four strains it does protect against are the most likely to cause cervical cancer, the vaccine’s own website admits that it does not protect against all types of cervical cancer. Currently the common side effects of this drug can include pain, swelling, and itching at the injection sight; fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting, the later occurring most often among adolescents and young adults. There have also been some cases of severe allergic reactions to the ingredients in Gardasil, and even deaths associated with the vaccine that have been confirmed the FDA.
Gardasil has only been available since June 2006, as such, it is still a relatively new vaccine. The long-term effects of this drug are still unknown as subjects were only followed for five years. It is, however, known that Gardasil contains a high amount of aluminum, which in such doses, is found to cause neurological damage to animals. How many drugs have we seen approved over the years, only to have them later recalled? One in particular that comes to mind is Vioxx. In the fall of 2004, the Merck company announced the voluntary withdrawal of Vioxx worldwide. The withdrawal came after the drug was found to cause serious cardiovascular problems in patients taking Vioxx. It was published in an issue of British Medical Journal that Merck was accused of intentionally withholding data concerning the dangers of the drug and even designed studies using low-risk patients to conceal the drug’s threat. According to David J. Graham, MD, MPH, in the five years Vioxx was on the market, it is estimated that 100,000 deaths were due to the drug. Merck also happens to be the same company responsible for the Gardasil vaccine. Is it fair to forcefully subject children to an unproven vaccine that could possibly be found harmful to them in the future?
As there is a vaccine that protects against HPV, parents should indeed have the choice to decide whether they want their children vaccinated. Obviously some will be for the vaccine, some will be against it, but it should be the choice of the parents, not the state or the Governor. If a child is injured by the vaccine, who pays the price? Not the Governor or the state. No, if the vaccine causes adverse effects in a child, it is the parents and the child who must suffer the consequences. Part of parenting is deciding what is best for one’s children, and forcing the HPV virus on children against parents’ wishes is to take away the basic rights of parenthood.
Perhaps it is time to examine what might have prompted Governor Perry to allow the vaccine’s experimentation on so many young girls. At the time of Governor Perry’s decision, Merck had been lobbying for the mandate of the vaccine to all sixth grade girls in the United States, a move that would rake in huge profits for the company. Could it then be a coincidence that Mike Toomey, one of Merck’s Texas lobbyists, also happens to be Governor Perry’s former chief of staff? It certainly does make one wonder, especially when one takes into consideration a certain source of funding during Governor Perry’s re-election campaign. During that campaign, Governor Perry received several thousand dollars from Merck. It is possible that such ties to the company may have greatly influenced Governor’s Perry decision regarding the forced administration of the Gardasil vaccine. Perhaps it was not that Governor Perry sought to protect young girls from cervical cancer, but rather, he sought to protect and possibly further his relationship with the company responsible for the vaccine. What better way to do so, than to order the vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas. In essence, he was using them as guinea pigs for his own person gain.
Merck profits from the sale of Gardasil and Governor Perry profits from Merck, and who will suffer for any consequences? The children and their parents. The vaccine mandate has since been overturned in Texas, but several other states have considered mandatory HPV; one can only hope they will not be as self-serving as Governor Perry. Parents do indeed deserve the choice to vaccinate their children against HPV, but it should remain exactly that; a choice.
Cervical cancer risks and causes
Dr. Joseph Mercola
Testimony of David J. Graham, MD, MPH
Gwendolyn V. Kelly, MD & Laura Spinelli, MD
Sex, Science and Vaccines: the Decline of Cervical Cancer
Martha Jefferson Hospital
Harlan M Krumholz, Harold H Hines,Joseph S Ross, Amos H Presler, David S Egilman
What have we learnt from Vioxx
British Medical Journal 2007, January 20
HPV – Human Papillomavirus Vaccine
Shepherd J, Weston R, Peersman G, Napuli IZ
Cochrane Review 1999, Issue 3
Texas governor orders anti-cancer vaccine for schoolgirls
USA Today; February 2, 2007