Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where do you stand on the HPV vaccine issue?

In January, NPR's Rough Cuts ran a podcast on HPV and the vaccine. Back then, everyone had only good things to say about the topic. It was, it seemed, the Second Coming of vaccines, right up there with Salk and Sabin. But the whole ad campaign made me queasy. There have been too many "wonder drugs" touted in the past decade or so that have, with use, turned out to be less-than-wonderful if not outright dangerous. When I heard yet another pro-Gardisal program on NPR, I wrote this response, which was published on Rough Cuts web site.

I'm confused/concerned/suspicious (?) that this flood of information about HPV and its relationship to cancer has come out with and is tied to Merck's campaign for their vaccine. It may be coincidence, circumstance or fortuitous, but I have been ignoring most of the "bumpf" on this topic as just another example of the drug companies' creativity and immorality with regard to marketing their products. The only reason I am paying attention this time is because I respect you, Michel [Martin], and NPR. Still, I would like to hear some medical testimony, pro and (especially) con, before I buy into what right now seems to be the latest scare tactic aimed at women's sexuality. Here are questions I would like to have answered:

1. Why has this taken so long to come to light -- given the incredible amount of energy that women have expended on behalf of their health issues?

2. What research (besides Merck's own) is being cited?

3. Who did that study which resulted in the shocking statistic (re: sexually active women and HPV)? What kind of a study was it? What were the numbers? What were the demographics of the study and
insert blockquote the control group?

4. Is there anyone who is denying the veracity of this study and/or the need for the vaccine? Who are they? What are their claims?

5. Both of your guests are African-American, and you mention the prevalence among Black women. Is this coincidence? Or are Black women more vulnerable?

I could go on ... I've been a radio reporter, so I understand the vagaries of tape and time. But this story right now is too loosey-goosey for my liking.

Sent by Jane Gassner | 5:48 PM ET | 01-05-2007

Since I wrote that, Merck has pulled back on the advertising, but the controversy over the vaccine goes on. I certainly don't want to be put in the same pot as those who are against it for religious or moral reasons. But I still can't help feeling that the hoo-hah around the vaccine is--I don't know--a bit too loud. Is it that this is the first vaccine for cancer that's been found so let's shout it from the rooftops? Or that we're having some very sad, slow newsdays these past months?

I suppose the bottom line is: Would I vaccinate my daughter? I don't know. Okay, I don't have a daughter, so there aren't any stakes there. But I do have a pre-pubescent niece: am I going to lobby her parents to have her vaccinated? I don't know. Why am I having such a negative response to the vaccine issue? I don't know.

What do you think?


  1. here is an example of me being a sheep and fallowing the stream because i never even stopped to think about it. i just thought i would need to have it.

  2. Another perspective on the HPV vaccine:

  3. I am always overly suspicious of drugs that come out. It just seems like... well, there's just a lot of things that get touted as being the next, latest, greatest wonder-drug before being followed up with a retinue of nasty side effects that are worse than the original condition.

    I'm going to sit this one out for a few years.


So--whaddaya think?