Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gardasil Makes Thousands Sick

Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV prevention, prevention for a virus that could induce cervical cancer in women who have contracted the virus, has caused adverse effects for thousands of girls. The National Vaccine Information center has reported that 5 girls died, 31 girls had life threatening side effects, and 1,385 girls had to visit the emergency room.

This is for a vaccine that may prevent HPV infections but is not always successful. Still the question is how many cases of HPV these vaccines will prevent and further, how many cases of cervical cancer contractions and fatalities would be prevented. I'm not going to seek out and crunch these numbers except to say that the numbers above are not necessarily condemning alone if the benefits outweigh the risks.

There are other issues with this treatment. While some local and national governments consider making this vaccine freely available, there is the matter of cost. The series of vaccines all together cost $360.

If we were to vaccinate every girl in the U.S. this would be just one more considerable strain on the medical system that is already at a crisis level. Since HPV is sexually transmitted, many object the use of a potentially dangerous and costly treatment for an infection that is perfectly preventable. Girls who practice abstinence and cautiously select a spouse who will be faithful will not contract HPV.

So we have two approaches to prevention here, one that carries some potential for physical harm and the other that not only carries no such physical risks, but also offers many benefits beyond mere disease prevention since teens who practice abstinence are emotionally healthier and academically better off than teens who don’t.

But of course, abstinence does have a risk. The risk is free will and responsibility. Not all who are taught to be responsible will be responsible, especially in a culture that praises rebellion like ours. Furthermore, while the debate continues on during a time when abstinence education programs are dominant, some teens will trust the licentious entertainment media and their friends for norms rather than educators and the message that the dominant entertainment culture promotes can be the easiest to hear when amplified by hormones.

Here it is most helpful when parents take it upon themselves to be the most important influence on their children. For this, there must be a balance of love, respect, and discipline and not only that, for many children, parents have to be informed about this to the degree that their word will not easily be undermined. Further, there should be an emphasis not on the negative aspect of sexuality, that it should merely be avoided, but there should be an emphasis on the meaning of sexuality itself. Sexuality for Christians is sacred and the bonding between man and woman uniquely reflects the image of the triune God himself as we read in Genesis 1, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”


Barb said...

welcome to the blog, Rob!

Good post.

mud_rake said...

LaLaLand revisited.

steve said...

I think your reasoning is flawed. You say that an already strained health care industry can not afford to vaccinate every girl in the country. So you are making an economic justification to support your moral stance in support of abstinence. But you did not provide any figures on the economic impact of vaccination versus the treatment of large groups of girls who have acquired the HPV virus. I think it would probably cost a lot more to treat a large cohort of cancer victims vs immunizing against the disease in the first place. Your argument is like saying that we should no longer immunize people against polio just because it costs so much darn money. But think of the costs of treating and rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of polio victims.

All drugs usually carry some sort of side effect or risk and I’m sure that the HPV vaccine is no different. Researchers will continue to improve the vaccine and as the vaccination program progresses the percentage of serious complications as a result of the vaccination will be reduced.

Abstinence is a noble individual moral choice, but you can not fashion health policy around mere good intentions. This issue is similar to the condom issue. Nobody is promoting premarital sex, these policies are just insuring public safety and erring on the side of caution when it comes to fickle teen sexuality.

Barb said...

I guess the issue comes down to "is it safe?" And I understand that not all the experts agree about that. When these few died and several were sickened, the vaccine hadn't been distributed to millions yet, had it?

Also the cost of treatment of HPV is the annual PAP test which they'd probably still do --and "cryosurgery", an office treatment on the cervix when abnormal cells are found which may not be any more expensive than the vaccine is at this point.

Mud-rake --don't start with your mudballs. THINK. Contribute substantively to the discussion! I didn't welcome you here to show us how you have a rotten blog personality! You could improve, you know, with just a smidgeon of effort.

mud_rake said...

La LaLand refers to your Pollyanna's view of the American teen world.

They are having sex, woman, so don't tell us that abstinence is the answer.

Barb said...

They had less teen sex and raised the age of first sex activity with the change from Planned Parenthood's value-free style of sex ed in the 70's --compared to abstinence recommendation that followed.

But all the TV reality shows --like the Bachelor and Bachelorette shows --or whatever they are called now --I have only glimpsed various shows that suggest everyone is promiscuous and that dates are sexual hook-ups --and there's not an ounce of shame or reluctance to this idea of casual sex as the norm. And even in good stories, the leading characters are in bed unmarried. It is the norm for hollywood stars and their films --waiting for marriage? obsolete. One partner for life? obsolete.

If we had better standards before, we CAN have them again--and not by telling our kids we expect them to be sexually active --that they can't help it --that everybody is doing it. Of course, part of the problem is the lack of chaperonage for youth today. Colleges gave up on curfews --even many of the Christian colleges just give everyone a key and they come and go freely at night --it's a big temptation to do "what comes naturally" --at least with a serious boyfriend. Still, the values of fidelity, monogamy, marriage --can be revived and survive if today's parents and schools would make the effort.

If vaccines can be made nearly 100 per cent safe and also affordable, fine --but if a certain percentage dies from Gardasil vaccination--there is a better alternative --that virgins marry virgins. Meanwhile there are tests and cures for HPV with good annual care.

Rob R said...

Steve, you do make a good point, though I'm not sure that is quite as good as the point that lala land is being revisited. There is no good answer to that.

My first point is that Gardasil can be harmful though I admit that it's not clear that the harm outweighs the benefits. So I did turn my attention to the economic situation and it did not occur to me think about the economic benefit of Gardasil vs. the economic strain of the cost of the drug. So I would defer to what my ma said here since she knows beter about the treatment of women's issues than we do and I would add that even with Gardasil, the pap smear test still would need to be performed since Gardasil is not effective against all strains of HPV and I believe that it isn't even always effective against the strains that it does target. Furthermore, my point stands that there is a free option with many benefits that is almost 100 percent effect for the individual and 100 percent effective when two individuals honor their commitment to each other.

This isn't like your example of the polio vaccine because polio is not caused by the refusal to make wise and highly beneficial lifestyle choices.

As I mentioned the only risk of abstinence is that it requires responsibility but to think that we cannot make that free choice easier and to insist that the multitudes cannot make that choice is nothing more than a self fulfilling prophecy. As for the idea that the pharms will one day make a problem free vaccine, for this, for one, that is speculative, but even if they do, that is not today.

Anonymous said...

Important Video on the Potential Dangers of Gardasil

Please take a few minutes and watch this important video on the potential dangers --and limited benefits--of the Gardasil vaccine and consider sharing it with others. Thirty two girls have already died, yet some are still pushing for mandatory vaccinations.

Please share this with anyone you know who may be considering the vaccine for their daughters or themselves.

Thank you so much!