HPV Vaccine - Choice Not Government Mandate

In 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil, a vaccine for the prevention of HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18.  HPV is a group of viruses commonly linked to the sexually transmitted diseases known as genital HPV infection, which have long been associated with the development of cervical cancer, which the American Cancer Society estimates will claim the lives of 3,670 American women in 2007.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80 percent of adults who reach age 50 will be exposed to HPV.

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There are more than 100 known subtypes of HPV, but types 16 and 18 are associated with the development of an estimated 70% of cervical cancers worldwide, and HPV types 6 and 11 are associated with the development of external genital disease, including genital warts.

While Gardasil is specifically approved for use on females 9 to 26 years of age to prevent HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, it does not protect against the nearly one dozen other types of HPV associated with cervical cancer,, nor does it protect against infection arising from any type that a girl or young woman has encountered prior to vaccination.

HPV Vaccine - Choice Not Government Mandate

The limitations of this vaccine means that women will still be at some risk even after they have been vaccinated, and they will still need regular cervical cancer screening with Pap smear testing. Moreover, they will still need to take precautions against other sexually-transmitted diseases.

There are also many unanswered questions about its effectiveness and safety.  There are no data on the side effects of the vaccine beyond five years, especially in girls ages 9 to 12, peak years of biological development, and there are no data on the effectiveness or interactions of the HPV vaccine when co-administered with other mandated immunizations.

Among the unanswered questions are misunderstandings concerning what the vaccine does and does not do. Inaccurate beliefs can lead to a false sense of security and resultant unsafe sexual practices and neglect of Pap smear screening.

This is what is known about the HPV vaccine:

o The vaccine can prevent only four types of HPV - 6, 11, 16 and 18. Unlike other sexually transmitted diseases that are mostly transmitted by blood or other body fluids, HPV is primarily passed on by skin to skin contact.  Therefore, Gardasil is better at preventing HPV than condoms, since a condom may not cover all areas of the skin where HPV could be found.

o The vaccine is about 85 percent effective. Clinical studies have shown that Gardasil is about 85 percent effective in providing protection against the four HPV strains, which are responsible for the highest percentage of disease related to HPV.

o The incidence of HPV and cervical cancer can be greatly reduced. Several studies based on mathematical models suggest that the HPV vaccine can reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer by 70 percent or more during the next several decades.

The government of Canada and U.S states such as Texas, have targeted young girls aged 11 and 12 for state-mandated vaccination programs. The states see this vaccine as just another to be added to the list along with small-pox, rubella, and mumps - diseases to which the states claim children might be exposed while in school. And since many parents are complying with these vaccines, the state continues to subvert the authority of parents.

The American Academy of Dermatology, an organization that represents doctors who  diagnose and treat diseases of the skin, hair and nails, is promoting the government-mandated use of the vaccine for young girls.  Dermatologist Stephen K. Tyring, professor of dermatology, microbiology, molecular genetics and internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center, believes that the HPV vaccine should be required by law and parents who do not want their daughters vaccinated could opt out without being penalized or fined.  He believes that all parents should have their daughters vaccinated.

Although HPV is transmitted primarily by skin to skin contact, cervical cancer is a disease that is treated by oncologists not dermatologists.  It is highly unlikely that a dermatologist will have the answers to the unanswered questions related to this vaccine.

With all the unresolved health issues related to this vaccine, the government should not mandate its use by anyone - especially developing young girls.  Instead, they should call for unbiased research to collect missing data.  Use by adults or parents who elect to have their daughters vaccinated should be a matter of individual choice rather than government mandate.

A recent poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked parents in the U.S. if they would support a school mandate for the HPV vaccine. The results of the poll show that the majority of U.S. parents are not in favor of HPV vaccine mandates, with only 44 percent in support of a school mandate.

 

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