Saturday, February 23, 2008

Virginia's HPV Vaccine Mandate

I've written two opinion columns regarding Virginia's school-attendance mandate for the HPV vaccination, where I've argued that because HPV is not transmitted by normal school activity, parents shouldn't be required to vaccinate their children in order to attend school. Required vaccinations should be limited to diseases where, if the parent sent their child to school with the disease, it would put others at risk.

A lot of people dismiss the point by changing the subject, suggesting that us "Christians" just want to force our morality on others. So I found the latest newsletter from the Family Research Counsel especially interesting, as well as informative.

Our House of delegates wisely voted to delay the HPV vaccine requirement (although I think they should repeal the law entirely, and instead simply provide educational materials about the vaccine and let parents decide with their doctors what they should do). The Senate however rejected the delay.

There are questions about the HPV vaccine safety. Probably no more than any vaccine, but realise that if you are at essentially ZERO risk for the infection, and there is a 0.01% risk of a serious side effect, you needlessly harm one child out of 10,000 by mandating the vaccine for everybody.

My personal opinion, which NOBODY should accept (as I said, see your doctor), is that if your child is going to be sexually active, they should get the vaccine, otherwise they should wait a year or two to see first whether the anecdotes about serious and fatal side-effects pan out, and second to see how the second vaccine coming out shortly does in that regard -- it may be a safer vaccine.

Here is the article from the Family Research Counsel, Virginia takes cheap shot at vaccine concerns (2nd article down at link):

Despite new fears over the safety of the HPV vaccine, a Virginia senate committee voted 10-5 yesterday to kill a bill that would have postponed the state's vaccination mandate. The vote came just hours after Arizona news agencies broke the story that the HPV vaccine Gardasil may be linked to the paralysis of a 12-year-old girl. [ED link: Mom Says HPV Vaccine Caused Paralysis in 12-year-old Girl]

Virginia now has the dubious distinction of being the only state in America to require sixth-grade girls to be immunized against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Sixteen other states backed away from mandating after a grassroots outcry from concerned parents whose role in the process was to be short-circuited.

The legislation from Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R) simply asked the state to delay its mandate until researchers are able to collect data on the drug's long-term effects. Unfortunately, Virginia has stubbornly chosen to put corporate profit ahead of women's health and parental authority. FRC, which welcomed the development of the vaccine but opposes school mandates, has released a pamphlet by Moira Gaul, MPH, called, "Gardasil: What Every Parent Should Know About the HPV Vaccine." Visit our web site to pick up your copy!

Here is a link to a statement they made a couple of years ago about the vaccine, including their support for the vaccine itself:

After extensive study of the vaccine and discussion with medical experts, we concluded that the public health benefits of developing and distributing such a vaccine far outweighed any potential, hypothetical concerns about its impact on sexual behavior. Therefore, we announced in October of 2005 that we would enthusiastically support the development of the vaccine and federal approval of its use, including its addition to the list of vaccines recommended to physicians and of those made available to lower-income families through the Vaccines for Children program. Virtually all pro-family public policy organizations have announced similar support for the vaccine itself.

The only public policy measure which we would oppose in promoting the vaccine is an effort to make it mandatory for school attendance. Our reason for that is that it would infringe upon parental rights to decide their own children's medical care, without sufficient public health justification (because HPV is not transmitted through casual contact). To repeat, our opposition to mandatory vaccination is rooted in a concern about parents' rights, not about sexual behavior.

They have some other material about HPV posted on their web site, here are some links. Don't use this as your sole source of information. I didn't know they had this information before I wrote my columns, I wish I had:

Don't mandate HPV vaccine -- trust parents
Family Research Counsil Statement Regarding HPV Vaccines


Anonymous said...

HPV can be transmitted without sexual contact. Do you have any warts? Then you've had contact with HPV. Kids spread warts at school all the time. Ever wear flip-flops in a public recreation locker room? Why? HPV.

Quoting Paul Aitkin:
"There are over 100 types of the human papillomavirus (hand warts are caused by HPV 2). The vast majority of these are harmless (ugly, but harmless). Only 30 or so are transmitted through sexual contact and of these only two, HPV 16 and 18, have been directly implicated as causative agents in cervical cancer (although HPV 31 and HPV 45 are also thought to be suspects). Unfortunately, HPV 16 and 18 are among the most common and easily transmitted strains of the virus. What makes these strains so dangerous are two viral oncogenes that when incorporated into the host cell genome, produce proteins that interfere with the tumor suppressor genes, R1 and P53. Slowly but surely, HPV kicks out the blocks that prevent runaway cell division." What we don't know hurts others.

Charles said...

Those are the two HPV strains that the vaccine works on (along with two others that are also transmitted by sexual activity).

The HPV vaccine does not work against the strains that are trasmitted by warts. Fortunately, those aren't the ones that are linked to cervical cancer. The vaccine covers the HPV strains (16 and 18) that are linked to cervical cancer.

Credit Guru said...

if you use this logic then all 6th grade girls who test positive for the BRCA gene will have to get a double mastectomy? What about all the boys who have the HPV virus? Thats where the girls actually get it from? This is a dangerous road to go down when there is ZERO evidence that HPV causes cervical cancer! Hpv is a symptom!