Gardasil -- The Three Faces of the HPV Vaccine...Fear, Facts, and Profits.

10 years ago

Something very disturbing has been happening. Pharmaceutical companies are manipulating us with fear. It was bad enough when these companies began advertising prescription drugs on television. But now they have taken this tactic a step further; and began using fear for the life of our children, to persuade us that we need to get the HPV Vaccine for our daughters. This is the most sinister of abuse...using the love parents have for a child, to manipulate them through fear...for profit.

I will not be trying to convince anyone to get or not to get the Merck HPV Vaccine (Gardasil). What I will try to do with this post is address the facts surrounding the controversy, so all parents can make an informed decision about whether or not to get this vaccine for their child. I'll begin with my personal opinion...Never make a major decision for yourself or your child out of fear.

So now lets talk a bit about the facts, the ones you won't hear about on the ten second commercials that we are all seeing on television recently.

When detected in the early stages, the HPV virus is easily treated and rarely proceeds to cancer. Between 1955 and 1992 the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States dropped by 74%. This decrease is largely attributed to the increased use of the PAP test. (The PAP is a diagnostic screening that can detect changes on a womens cervix even before cancer develops, as well as find cancer at the earliest stages when it is most curable.) Because of early diagnosis and treatment, the death rate from cervical cancer continues to decline about 4% each year.

Because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer or genital warts. About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine, so it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer (regular Pap tests). Also, the vaccine does not prevent about 10% of genital warts—nor will it prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So it will still be important for sexually active adults to reduce exposure to HPV and other STIs. -- from the CDC

LEBANON, N.H. - A lead researcher who spent 20 years developing the vaccine for human papilloma virus says the HPV vaccine is not for younger girls, and that it is "silly" for states to be mandating it for them. Not only that, she says it's not been tested for effectiveness in younger girls, and administering the vaccine to girls as young as 9 may not even protect them at all. And, in the worst-case scenario, instead of serving to reduce the numbers of cervical cancers within 25 years, such a vaccination crusade actually could cause the numbers to go up. -- read full article

Another important risk factor for developing cervical cancer is smoking. Smokers are at least twice as likely as non-smokers to develop cervix tumors. Smoking may also increase the importance of the other risk factors for cancer. Finally, being in a low socioeconomic group seems to increase your likelihood for developing and dying from cervical cancer. This may be because of increased smoking rates, or perhaps because there are more barriers to getting annual screening exams. -- read article

This year there will be about 3,670 deaths from cervical cancer in the United States, and the vast majority of these cases will be in patients who have never had a PAP test, or cervical screening. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at the time I am writing this article there are approximately 301,718,307 people in the United States, and about half of those are women. Statistically speaking the death rate due to cervical cancer is very small. To put these numbers in even more perspective...

Every year, more than 500,000 American women die from cardiovascular disease. Heart disease actually kills more women than all forms of cancer combined. -- read full article

About 178,480 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer in 2007. About 40,460 women will die from the disease this year. Right now there are slightly over 2 million women living in the United States who have been treated for breast cancer. -- from American Cancer Society

From the CDC (National Vital Statistics) - 3,454 Americans died of malnutrition in 2001.

Here are a few more important facts about the HPV Vaccine:

How long does Gardasil last? Tests show that the vaccine lasts at least four years. Long-term results aren't known yet. -- from WebMD

Also see this article on adverse reactions to Gardasil from The National Vaccine Information Center

What about the profits? If every sixth-grade girl (just in Georgia) were to get this vaccine (at a cost of $360 for a three-shot series) , the cost would be over $20 million dollars. There are over 21 million sixth-grade girls in the United States today, so the profit margins for this vaccine (and Merck) are staggering. Furthermore, the group of female legislators (Women In Government), who have pushed for nationwide legislation to require this vaccine, is heavily funded by Merck itself (as well as several other pharmaceutical companies). This marketing and legislative push by Merck, is largely due to their desire to "corner the market" before similar vaccines are released later this year. This is not millions of dollars we are talking about, this is billions of dollars in profit for the Merck Pharmaceutical Company.

No vaccine, at least one not connected to a potential pandemic, has moved so quickly from approval to being required. And it’s anyone’s guess how school districts will enforce such a statewide requirement. They barely enforce current requirements for children to get vaccines for mumps, measles and other much more communicable diseases. -- read full article

The two medical groups you’d think would be leading the campaign for vaccination, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, seem inclined to slow the mandatory vaccination train down. (The debate is playing out in at least 31 other states — in addition to Georgia and Texas — which is remarkable considering the vaccine was only approved for public use in June.) -- read full article

It seems to me...The facts about cervical cancer and the HPV virus are proving, that the pharmaceutical companies are using fear to generate profits for their HPV vaccine. And, it is working.

There are several reasons to consider whether the benefit of this vaccine outweighs the risks. And, there are even more reasons to argue against making this vaccine mandatory for 9 to 12 year old school girls. I view this latest consumer manipulation of the American public by the pharmaceutical companies, as the most appalling example of corporate greed I have ever seen. What do you think?

Over the last few months at least three of our BlogHer corresponding editors have addressed this Gardasil issue. Both the posts and the comments they generated are very interesting and compelling, so I wanted to give you the links; The People vs. Perry, More Thoughts on Gardasil, as a mom, and Gardisil - for HPV - for Cervical Cancer.

And, a quick surf through the BlogHer BlogRoll turned up a couple women bloggers covering this important issue as well. Lively Women have done several posts, and Our Bodies Ourselves did a very informative post with lots of links. Also see, Women Matter and F-Words: Questioning Gardasil

I know this is a very hot topic lately and that many of you have strong feelings on both sides of this issue...and I would like to hear them all. Also, if you have a blog and you have been posting on this important issue...I hope you will comment and leave a link to your post. Knowledge is power. The more facts and information we can gather in one place, the better prepared parents can be when they make this decision for their child.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
also at Women 4 Hope and catherine-morgan.com

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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