So you know that HPV vaccine, the one that protects young women against a commonplace sexually transmitted virus that is causally related to more than 90% of cervical cancer cases? Turns out it may also help prevent certain types of breast cancer, which were found to contain HPV cells in a recent Australian study. Which begs the following very reasonable question: if the HPV vaccine has such potential to prevent suffering later in life, why are so many doctors in the United States loathe to innoculate young women with it?
While saying that the reason is ignorance or prudishness may be over simplifying the matter… it also may not. Gardasil is the latest vaccine to be taken out to the pseudo scientific woodshed with hysterical anecdotes and unpleasant but unsubstantiated tales of woe managing to drown out the reams of scientific data that say Gardasil is safe. While numbers of adverse reactions are statistically tiny, the web is replete with horror stories linking Gardasil to seizures and paralysis. There is, of course, no proven link between the tens millions of doses of Gardasil that have been administered and any symptoms more severe than fainting and blood clotting in tiny numbers of patients. While these potential side effects are serious and physicians should no doubt watch for them, side effects both real and imagined are being used more and more to spook young women and their parents into not getting the vaccine, or at least putting off the decision to vaccinate.
This wouldn’t be a problem, except that the three shot Gardasil regimen is only effective in preventing HPV – not in treating it, which is why all three shots have to be administered prior to sexual activity. This means the longer young women put off getting the vaccine, the less likely it is it will be effective. And while the Moral Majority complains about the vaccine promoting promiscuity and teen sex and conservative doctors wring their hand and look for reasons not to administer the vaccine on right wing blogs when they can’t find any in medical journals, the FDA has approved Gardasil for use in young men as well to prevent them from carrying or spreading the disease, and from suffering the penile cancer that it is linked to later in life.