by jesse on July 2nd, 2010
Mandating the new HPV vaccine would be overkill—we just need to make sure everyone is free to choose it.
On February 2, Texas governor Rick Perry signed an executive order requiring all eleven- and twelve-year-old girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. At least twenty other states have similar lebron 6 legislation pending.
The campaign to make the new vaccine compulsory has sparked a polarized debate, prompting unfamiliar allies. The New York Times has sided with Big Pharma, congratulating Texas on its decision. Consumer advocacy groups, skeptical of government mandates and big corporations, are aligned with conservatives who fear the vaccine will encourage girls to become sexually active earlier. Framing the debate this way—saving lives vs. promoting promiscuity, Big Pharma vs. those who speak truth to power—obscures the facts.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Merck’s Gardasil last June to protect against strains of HPV believed to be responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancer cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices subsequently voted, unanimously, to recommend giving the vaccine to all eleven- and twelve-year-old girls (the vaccine is safe for girls as young as nine, and the ACIP encourages women as old as twenty-six to get it). The vaccine is given in three doses within a six-month period, at a total cost of $360. Merck says that most private health plans cover the vaccine.
The case for compulsory vaccination seems clear: Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, HPV is wide-spread and easily transmitted, and we now have a vaccine that can safely protect against HPV.
But there are over forty types of HPV, and not all types of HPV are the same. High-risk types of HPV are associated with 99 percent of cervical cancers. Gardasil protects against HPV 16 and 18, the two most common high-risk strains. A CDC study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association attributed 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases to these two strains. Low-risk types of HPV cause genital warts, which are relatively lebron james shoes benign, and respiratory tract warts in children (an infrequent occurrence). Gardasil protects against the two most common low-risk types as well, types 6 and 11.