It’s difficult to ignore, if not downright impossible, all this talk lately about cervical cancer, HPV and Cervarix/Gardasil, a vaccine that’s currently being heavily promoted in the Philippines. Particularly because two of the loudest voices telling women to vaccinate are RH bill proponents, this is an issue about which people on both sides of the debate should be informed.
Rina Jimenez-David’s defense of HPV vaccine inventor Ian Frazer is cute, but in no way touches on the pros and cons of the vaccine. The piece is misplaced hero worship and irresponsible reporting at best, dangerous and misleading disinformation at worst. Gushing accounts of Frazer’s accomplishments and future plans can hardly be adequate data for women deciding whether to get this vaccine or not. Parents equally need to be aware of the risk-benefit ratio if they are to have their daughters vaccinated. Jimenez-David asked Ian Frazer about the autism-vaccination link, but conveniently neglected to ask whether there are other health issues people need to consider prior to vaccination. In her other article on HPV, she focuses on the costs of “the golden standard” (Pap smears) versus the cost of the vaccine. Does she mention anything about risk factors? No. Just like her support of the RH bill, the attention is directed towards a quick fix, without a corresponding evaluation of real need or long-term implications.
Pia Magalona, on the other hand, along with her daughter Maxene are spokespeople for Cervarix. Magalona is slated to participate in the RH bill debate on GMA 7, to be taped today, May 17th, and aired on May 22. Since the HPV vaccine is an important part of her advocacy, her stance on the RH bill is worth scrutinizing. The future of Filipino women’s health hangs in the balance, as RH proponents are fond of saying. It behooves us then, we who will be the subjects of this great experiment, to carefully examine what they’ve said and what they haven’t.
One can’t help but wonder at the seemingly complete and unquestioning trust for US systems that unfortunately don’t deserve such adulation. Pro-RH comments on Facebook pages, Twitter, blogs and places online and off exhibit a wanton disregard (or is it ignorance?) of how big pharmaceuticals and the US FDA work. The consensus among RH bill fans seems to be that if a drug is prescribed by a doctor and approved by a governing body such as the FDA, there exists no reason to question its safety and reliability, and all negative opining should immediately be put to rest.
The FDA doesn’t exactly regulate the pharmaceutical industry — the opposite is probably closer to the truth. Private lawsuits against big pharma are banned, once the drugs have been approved by the FDA. This puts the consumer at a distinct disadvantage, forced to take the FDA’s “expert” judgment on whether a drug is safe or not as gospel. Moreover, the FDA has sole authority in deciding what goes on drug labels, including indications and contra-indications, risks and benefits. This position leaves much room for abuse. Due diligence that should be part of this process is no longer a given.
As AAJ President Ken Suggs put it in 2006,
“The fact that the drug industry can get the FDA to rewrite the rules so that CEOs can escape accountability for putting dangerous and deadly drugs on the market is the scariest example yet of how much control these big corporations have over our political process.”
The FDA’s long list of recalls upon recalls doesn’t seem to be a cause for alarm in certain circles. Which begs the question, if RH bill proponents are ignorant about, or deliberately withholding vital information such as this from the public, where’s the assurance that our poor will be given ample knowledge before they are coerced to undergo these measures? Over-prescribing unnecessary medication is itself a disease in the United States. This propensity towards quick fixes in the form of pills or biologics such as vaccines has led to even more menacing problems. One example is MRSA, brought about by the medical field’s laxity and over-dependence on antibiotics.
This is not to say that all doctors can’t be trusted. Neither are we saying that anything approved by the FDA should be looked at with suspicion (though it may indeed be wiser to err on the side of caution). In simplest terms, a stamp of approval from the US FDA is meaningless. We need to take responsibility for our children’s health and our own, and do the legwork if that’s what it takes to be an informed consumer. Our reporters need to be taken to task when they don’t do their jobs. Our legislators should be questioned when they make decisions that impact the health of our nation, most especially when they seem to be more concerned with satisfying the demands of international organizations whose intentions might be better viewed askance.
Cervarix/Gardasil has been controversially dubbed “the promiscuity vaccine”, and for good reason. Despite protestations to the contrary, it is apparent that a major risk factor for cervical cancer is promiscuity. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) lists these as risk factors for cervical cancer:
- Having sex at an early age
- Multiple sexual partners
- Poor economic status (may not be able to afford regular Pap smears)
- Sexual partners who have multiple partners or who participate in high-risk sexual activities
- Women whose mothers took the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) during pregnancy in the early 1960s to prevent miscarriage
- Weakened immune system
As the list indicates, it is risky sexual behavior that typifies the prime HPV vaccine candidate.
From Healthwise/WebMD: Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it.
From the Mayo Clinic: Many sexual partners, early sexual activity, other STDs, a weak immune system.
The surest way to eliminate risk for genital HPV infection is to refrain from any genital contact with another individual.
For those who choose to be sexually active, a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the strategy most likely to prevent genital HPV infection. However, it is difficult to determine whether a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected.
It is not known how much protection condoms provide against HPV infection, because areas not covered by a condom can be infected by the virus. Although the effect of condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease.
Note also, from CBS Report Gardasil Researcher Speaks Out:
“If we vaccinate 11 year olds and the protection doesn’t last… we’ve put them at harm from side effects, small but real, for no benefit,” says Dr. Harper. “The benefit to public health is nothing, there is no reduction in cervical cancers, they are just postponed, unless the protection lasts for at least 15 years, and over 70% of all sexually active females of all ages are vaccinated.” She also says that enough serious side effects have been reported after Gardasil use that the vaccine could prove riskier than the cervical cancer it purports to prevent. Cervical cancer is usually entirely curable when detected early through normal Pap screenings.
Do our wives, sisters, daughters, really need this vaccine? Not if they’re chaste, single women. Not if they’re monogamous and married to a faithful spouse. Not if they’re getting regular Pap smears. Not if they’re mostly healthy women.
Aha! Have we hit the jackpot here? Is the HPV vaccine being heavily promoted because RH bill folks find it more expedient to have our poor women vaccinated? Rather than provide for Pap smears for them, since that “gold standard” is “too expensive” and can’t possibly be covered by the Php3B allotted yearly for RH implementation? Pap smears which, may I point out, are necessary tests to ensure women’s health? Or are Pap smears only for those who can afford it?
It is appalling to see the posts from both Jimenez-David and Magalona, neither of which deem it appropriate that warnings should at least warrant a passing mention. Don’t we owe our women that much? Is it not a travesty that the very women espousing women’s health can’t even spare one sentence to say that this vaccine may not be all that it’s cracked up to be?
Apparently, it wasn’t worth a mention that women have died from the vaccine. Or that there have been severe adverse side effects reported. Or that this is a vaccine commonly required in US dormitories precisely because they expect students to be promiscuous and they don’t want HPV outbreaks in the dorms.
Here, for the readers’ benefit, is a laundry list we suggest readers peruse if they are at all considering HPV vaccination. Forewarned is forearmed. While big pharma continues to deny any causation between vaccines and adverse reactions, the reports continue to pile on.
From the Vaccine Resistance Movement: Gardasil/Cervarix: A Legacy of Shame
From Judicial Watch: Gardasil Law Under Fire and Judicial Watch Investigates Side Effects of HPV Vaccine
Truth About Gardasil, girls whose lives have been affected by the Gardasil vaccine
From the National Vaccine Information Center: Gardasil and HPV Infection: Get the facts
Our Girls Are Not Guinea Pigs
SANE Vax. Inc Addresses Global Concerns about HPV Vaccines in London
Tinkering with women’s bodies, rich or poor, is not a joke. There’s always a price to be paid. The question is, who ultimately pays the price?