Laurie Toby Edison


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The Truth about the HPV Vaccine

Debbie says:

(Because of travel schedules and other complications, I’ll be blogging without Laurie for another couple of weeks. But don’t worry; she’s fine and she’ll be back.)

I’ve gotten interested in the controversy over Gardasil, Merck Corporation’s human papilloma virus vaccine which is about to be mandatory for girls in Texas (unless their parents raise religious or philosophical objections). Up until this week, all I had heard was raves for the vaccine from the progressive/liberal/scientific community, sometimes paired with objections on a religious basis: the belief that vaccinating girls encourages sexual activity. The definitive post on this aspect of the controversy is from the always-cogent Rivka.

Religious exemptions to mandatory vaccines are already available in every state but West Virginia and Mississippi. (Anyone think that Focus on the Family would have trouble convincing the Mississippi or West Virginia state legislature to add in a religious exemption for the HPV vaccine? Me neither.) They will have the right to opt their daughters out of this health-, fertility-, and potentially life-saving vaccine, mandatory or not. What they’re really angling for is a way to deny it to other people’s daughters.

If it’s easy to opt out, why the battle over mandatory? Because mandatory = affordable. States cannot make a vaccine mandatory for school entry unless they are willing to provide it to those who cannot pay. And thus, through the CDC’s Vaccines For Children program, every state supplies children with required vaccines free of cost. But optional vaccines are a different story. … Put simply, if the HPV vaccine is not made mandatory, it probably won’t reach the low-income women and girls who need it most. Of course, that means that the Religious Right’s tax dollars won’t go towards providing women with an immunological license for promiscuity… and don’t think that they aren’t thinking of it that way.

I was a little startled by the Texas ruling; I would have assumed that the first states to take this leap would have been Massachusetts, New York, California, Washington … states where the religious right has somewhat less clout.

So I was interested to run across this post, from a nonreligious skeptic at Evil Slutopia about the vaccine, taking a very different view. She presents a well-reasoned and thoughtful set of arguments for distrusting the vaccine, all of which Rivka responds to very clearly in the comment thread here.

Her “things you might not know” contain some very important information. Merck is mounting a very substantial campaign to get the vaccine made mandatory in all 50 states. To the extent they succeed, they will be protected from liability if the vaccine causes problems down the line. Men are under-tested. Texas governor Rick Perry took money from Merck and then circumvented the legislature to make this decision.

And it’s about impossible to disagree with Evil Slutopia’s final point: “Don’t get this vaccine just because your doctor/mom/sister/friend/a perky TV commercial told you to. But don’t not get it just because some chicks with a blog say that they aren’t going to. It’s your health, your decision. Do your own research and accept no guilt trips.”

I wrote this post to make myself review the evidence and come to my own conclusion, and now I have.

1) If I had a young daughter, I would encourage her to get the vaccine. I think the risks of cervical cancer are far worse than the risks of the vaccine.

2) I fucking hate the way we run our drug testing for huge corporate profit. It muddies the waters of health and safety, and makes all of this much harder to unravel than it would be otherwise. I despise the constant pressure pushing people away from good medical choices because it’s so hard to believe the drug lords could be getting this obscenely rich on something that actually does some good.
Thanks to Peg Kerr for gathering up the various comments and reactions so well.

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11 Responses to “The Truth about the HPV Vaccine”

  1. Dan'l says:

    Sigh. I’m very pro-capitalism (well, really, pro-mixed-economy). But government-supported monopolies ain’t capitalism, they’re plutocracy.

    Big surprise.

    And the marketing is very divide-and-conquer. Men’s health, women’s health, it’s all very targetted. Soon we will see drugs marketed to gay Italian-American males with blond hair and poodles.

    “…he changed his major to medicine, and specialized in diseases of the rich.”

  2. serene says:

    I heard a longish story on this on NPR today, and some things I came away from it with were, in no special order:

    1) Children in private schools will be exempt from the requirement

    2) Most analysts agree that the reduced cost from avoiding extra pap tests, follow-up dysplasia testing, and surgeries will mostly offset the cost of the admittedly expensive vaccine.

    3) Some people who oppose the mandatory vaccine are of the opinion that:
    a) The risk of HPV is low enough that it’s not financially wise to spend the money there rather than on, say, improved nutrition and/or safety in the schools
    b) HPV is not an infectious disease in the sense that a person can be in the school lunchroom, have another student sneeze on her, and contract the disease.

    3b is the one that made me dismiss the woman who was making the anti-vaccine arguments. My reaction is this: So. Fucking. What. If your daughter can be spared cancer, chemotherapy, and an early death because you protect her with a vaccine, and you choose not to do that because it doesn’t *count* as infectious because she has to have sex to get it, you’re not on the same planet I’m on, and you’re willing to punish people with disease or death for having sex you don’t want them to have.

  3. Debbie says:

    Dan’l, I just don’t trust mixed economies to stay mixed.

    Serene, of course. The reason the post is about the scientific issues is that I don’t want to take the time or use the energy to respond to people who think that having sex is punishable by death. I was curious about what arguments are being clouded and obscured by the anti-sex arguments.

  4. darkdaughta says:

    The WHO has a gallery of photos of adults and children who have had adverse reactions to vaccines. There are also a slew of parent and alternative health practitioner driven websites that explain about the poisons a parent can expect to find in vaccines including mercury. I haven’t vaccinated my daughter or my eight month old for anything. Vaccines are known to completely cripple a child’s immune system before it can actually get the hang of functioning thereby opening the door to a host of ailments over the course of that child’s life well on into adulthood. Hence, childhood vaccines are a really crucial money maker for companies like Merck because they lead directly to a lifetime of prescription medication purchased. Some researchers are even speculating that some childhood ailments doctors are attempting to vaccinate against actually prepare or naturally innoculate our bodies against much worse ailments later on in life. But check the medical researchers, every now and then they’re publishing stats that are really damning of their own approaches to health and well being in some cases.

    Thanks for what you wrote about my blog for choice day post.

  5. John Doe says:

    From what I understand 100 different HPV strains exist, this vaccine accounts for only two, I believe strain 16 and 18 but a few other strain are capable of causing cervical cancer. What good is the vaccine if it doesn’t completely vaccinate against HPV?

  6. Mr. Larry Gregory says:

    “Are You at Risk for Cancer from HPV?” Author/Larry Gregory

    Many facts about HPV need to be addressed to enable the public to understand this virus. 1. The virus is very contagious. Having a sexual contact even one time will transfer the virus. 2. The transmission is not limited to sexual contact. The virus can be spread via vertical (Mother to child) and digital (Fingers). 3. The body cancers associated with HPV are not limited to cervical. Other body areas that are almost entirely HPV are vulvar, penile, anal, and many head and neck cancers. 4. When HPV is in the presence of Epstein-Barr, other body cancers are common. Nasal cavity and bladder cancer are two common additional areas. 5. HPV is also associated with some breast cancers -less than 10%. 6. Brain tumors have been found in children often before the age of three. 7. HPV is contagious all of the time unlike some herpes viruses. The HPV creates lesions of the skin even with the subclinical-invisible high risk strains- which allows other viruses to enter. HIV, for example, is difficult to transmit—but not the least bit difficult when an HPV infection is present. 8. One of every four women in the United States will have an hysterectomy some time in their life due primarily to fibroids. But, the second leading cause is the HPV induced cancer being present. Cervix removal, LEEP and conization has reduced the number of hysterectomies due to HPV. 9. The vaccine is a prophylatic vaccine and not a therapeutic vaccine. Young girls can be protected. An issue that many doctors do not want to discuss is that sexual predators have a very good chance of carrying the high risk strains. It is a proven fact that an older male with a younger female-under 17- have a greater chance of developing cancer before the age of 30. Sexual offenders can not be cured. Their action may be partally affected by their HPV infection. 10. HPV is affected by other viruses, diet, soaps, vitamins and hormones. 11. A self test is available that should be a sign to see a doctor. A self test of a girl touching her own cervix with her own finger without pain, is one such test. A self test with vinegar or iodine on a skin infection are capable of detecting invisible HPV infections and the later of a cancer development. A pap smear does not detect HPV only the signs that will lead to carcinoma-in-situ.12. HPV does create warts and cysts that may not be painful to touch and can be invisible. HPV cysts can create a bad smell when the skin of lystic (cell death) is exposed to the open air.

    The book is available at Amazon, Borders, Brodart, Powell, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and WalMart.

  7. Michael M says:

    Informative page you have, It surely beneficial to learn more on this subject. One should learn as much as possible to be able to put it into a good use. Here is another page that is all about hpv vaccine subject

  8. Mac keth says:

    It must be rescinded and allowed to pass through the proper legislative channels.

  9. Jill says:

    I myself got the vaccine and not a few months later contracted the disease. can anyone say live viruses in the vaccines???

  10. Paul says:

    For more information on HPV, I recommend VRAN, the Vaccination Risk Awareness Network at

  11. Jane doe says:

    Wow i got the shot too and the virus along with it, me and mom told them don’t give it to me cause me and my mom feel they give it to us to kill us