I’ve of two minds about the HPV vaccine. I don’t like being friends with the religious zealouts who think that eliminating VD and pregnancy risk will turn women into wanton harlots. But at the same time, I’m not comfortable with mandating the use of the vaccine. This post from Cato is as good a response as any, making both good points:
The rate of all 37 types [of HPV] together is high – 34% among women ages 14 to 24, but the rate for the types 16 and 18 that are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases in the U.S. – is only 1.5% and 0.8% respectively.
And unfortunately hysterical ones:
Risk assessment is not easy, particularly when, as is the case with Gardasil, the long term effects of a vaccine are totally unknown. Women who participated in the drug trials were followed for an average of less than three years. Consider this totally hypothetical example: what if 90% of all school age girls are vaccinated within the next five years and then ten or twenty years from now it is discovered that the vaccine made them sterile or actually caused them to get a different type of cancer than what they were vaccinated against?
Side effects don’t magically appear at 20 years. They phase in slowly. If Gardasil were going to ruin women’s reproductive systems, it would already be showing up.
I am also disturbed by the deliberate deception and buying of politicans Merck is displaying (and I own stock in them). My fundamental philosophy of human nature is that we are basically good people but we are easily tempted to be bad. And with $10 billion in Gardasil on the line, it’s easy to fudge the ethics.
My opinion? Recommend it but don’t mandate. This isn’t like polio or measles, which can be spread by casual contact and become an epidemic. This is spread by intimate contact and actually kind of rare (although Sue’s grandmother died of it). I will probably get my soon-to-arrive daughter vaccinated when she is of age. Of course, by then, we’ll have ten years of data to show how effective the HPV vaccine is and if there are any side effects. And as anyone who knows me or reads this blog is aware, I have nothing but antipathy for the anti-vaccination crowd, be they ignorant libs, faith healing theo-cons or ideology-addled libertarians.
But let’s take it slow, huh?