Thursday, February 22, 2007

HPV Vaccine Steamrolling ...and (whew!) Takes a Break

Beaver Shot
This issue has been a long time brewing in my head and now that Merck's taking a lobbying break, it needs to breathe.

Gardasil, the Merck-created HPV Vaccine, is the figurative minuteman at the Vulva border, preventing the crossing of four types of HPV, and shooting them in the ass if they make it through, is causing a stir. Why do we need to protect against HPV? HPV is linked to cervical cancer (and even penis cancer).

Laws & Profits
At the National Conference of State Legislatures, you can see what laws states are proposing concerning HPV. Merck has been driving through state and federal legislature halls like a Juggernaut to get this mandated. Seeing the public outcry against motives that seemed a little too altruistic to be real, they have paused their lobbying efforts.

What other motives could they have? What does lobbying always concern? Money. Merck pocketbook might be hurting in the coming years as many of its drugs finally fall into generic domains. Merck "face[s] the serious problem of potential erosion of over 50% of their 2005 revenues."

Merck's push is a vaccine of a sort too: a vaccine against low profits. It is estimated that the three-course vaccine will run $300 - $500 for each girl or woman. Getting mandated distribution and mandated insurance coverage (also in some proposals) would be a friggin' goldmine for Merck. A very few people getting very rich.

Equal Access vs. Mandate
Ann over at Feministing is a proponent of mandatory vaccination. And based on the comment "every state allows parents to refuse to vaccinate their children for moral or religious reasons," I almost agree with her. In Ohio and North Carolina, you can claim bona fide religious exemption, but they can deny your child public school access until college. Personal beliefs about vaccines have no bearing (i.e. "My Jesus said that shot'll make my girl a whore" = valid objection, "I have serious concerns about the efficacy, safety, and necessity of that shot; here is my research" = invalid objection).

Making this vaccine available and affordable to the entire population is important, but so is access to health care. (The survival rates for early detection are over 90%.) Making it mandatory is still potentially dangerous or, at the very least, potentially useless.

There are some conservative shelterists saying that by giving their daughters the HPV vaccine, it is giving them a license to be loose, immoral, and irresponsible. Those people do not deserve a link, need to stop being retarded, and shut the hell up. Not to worry, moralists: God's already givin' the gays the AIDS 'cause he hates fags, so by rights He'll make a baby in your girl's belly if she step outta line. That'll learn 'er.


  • Merck is pushing way too hard, and it looks like it's for money.

  • Faith in Merck after the Vioxx debacle.
    We have no long-term tests to reference whether this vaccine might actually be dangerous. Merck tested a couple thousand people and looked 4 years on the outset. They used abnormal cell smears as an indicator (CIN, which, while a potential precursor, technically only indicates cell changes). How do we know the vaccine won't hurt people? How do we know it'll even work in ten or twenty years when a female would be most likely to be exposed?

  • Straight answers on HPV and cancer.
    "20 of the suspected 230 different types of HPV are considered high risk due to their association with cervical cancer." That comes from here. The National Cancer Institute agrees. Basically the vast majority of women will never get HPV. The vast majority of those that get it will resolve the virus on their own (immune system will take care of it). The vast majority of those who don't kill the virus won't actually have the high-risk version. The majority of those that do have the high-risk version won't develop abnormal cells. The majority that develop abnormal cells will not develop cancer.

    HPV is associated with cervical cancer; it does not "cause" cancer. And since HPV is associated with 70% of cervical cancer and Merck can not validate the long-term efficacy of its product, it is far from the "cervical cancer vaccine" it purports to be.

    Merck has a vaccine that they say stops A. A can sometimes cause B, so they measure B. There seems to be no B present for those that got the vaccine. B is related to C. Merck says "We've cured C!"

  • Antidote Anecdote
    When my daughter was getting ready to enter kindergarten, the varicella vaccine for chicken pox had recently become mandatory for children entering school in Ohio. Her pediatrician didn't think it was a great idea and neither did my wife. But we didn't have a choice. Luckily, before they had to look into reasons for rejection, she caught the virus naturally. And ever since, there have been half a dozen kids out sick from every one of her classes every year - with chicken pox. The vaccine didn't live up to its hype, but it was another success story for Merck.

If Merck's vaccine works exactly like they say it does, then that's a wonderful thing, and it should be offered to (not forced upon) all women at a reasonable price or for free. But there are still questions about it and we don't have all the answers. And even when we do, it's a decision only parents can make with their daughters (and sons if the whole penis cancer thing gets press). The ACS estimates that 11,150 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007. 3,670 women will die because of it. Early diagnosis says that number should only be a little over 900. Health care or vaccines, we have a long way to go. Girls getting vaccinated today will reach the mean diagnosis age of 50 in 25 to 40 years. I'd hate for them to be disappointed.

No WTF Award this post: there are too many targets. But since I can't let a serious post lie, here's a beaver shot:
Beaver Shot
No, we can't have anything nice.

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