Controversy surrounds the HPV vaccine, but perhaps no place as strongly as Texas where it was at one time mandated for school girls. How safe is Gardasil and was it mandated merely for the governor’s own benefit?
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.