Sunday, July 02, 2006

CDC Recommends HPV Vaccination, Backlash Continues

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on Thursday (6/29) that the HPV vaccine be routinely given to girls when they are 11-12 years old. According to the CDC's press release,
"'This vaccine represents an important medical breakthrough,' said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. 'As a result, these vaccine recommendations address a major health problem for women and represent a significant advance in women’s health. It has been tested in thousands of women around the world and has been found to be safe and effective in providing protection against the two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.'"

As already covered by Pandagon, Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum apparently missed the vaccine information that lets us know the vaccine is most effective when given before sexual activity begins, because she titles her post on the topic, "It's OK for Little Girls to Have Sex - As Long as They're Vaccinated." Says Ms. Allen, "But there are a few hitches--such as parents who, uh, balk at the idea of telling prepubescent girls that it’s just fine for them to have all the sex they want, ’cuz now they’ll be vaccinated! And isn’t it against the law to have sex with children?"

Somehow I doubt that little girls will be told it's "just fine" to have sex because of a vaccine that protects against just one STI and the resultant cancer. And yes, it's against the law to have sex with children. Does Ms. Allen think that young victims of sexual assault should be unnecessarily vulnerable to a potentially deadly cancer because the law is supposed to prevent their exposure to such things? According to CDC data,

  • "About 2 out of 1000 children in the United States were confirmed by child protective service agencies as having experienced sexual assault in 2003"
    [note: using the 2004 Census data, that would be more than 106,000 children per year - figures below are for all children, not just females]
    Total population in 2004 = 285,691,501
    % 5-14 years old = 14.3%
    % 15-17 years old = 4.3%
    Total % who are children = 18.6%
    # of children (rounded) = 53,138,619
    (53,138,619)/1000 = 53139x2 = 106,278

  • "About 9% of [high school] students reported that they had been forced to have sexual intercourse."
    [also from Census data, in 2000 there were 16,380,951 students enrolled in high school. 9% would be 1,474,286 students reporting forced intercourse at some point.]
  • "Among college students nationwide, between 20% and 25% of women reported experiencing completed or attempted rape"

    Assume (perhaps inaccurately) that 1/2 of those sexually assualted children are girls - that's >50,000 female children sexually assaulted every single year, and about 700,000 reporting having already been forced to have sex by the time they are in high school. With numbers like that, is it really appropriate to refuse protection against cancer to these young women based on what they or the law should have done? The law is supposed to protect me from being crashed into by drunk drivers as well, but I still put on a seatbelt and drive carefully. Likewise, the law is supposed to prevent people from home invasions, yet many people keep a weapon stashed somewhere handy just in case. In an uncertain world, people like protection from possibilities. Let's not deny it to our young women based on a hope and a belief.

    Some of Pandagon's commenters, I think, get it just right when they say:
  • "Did I miss the part after my tetunus boosters where my mom was supposed to tell me I was free to run around stepping on rusty nails?"
  • "We are trying to protect children - who grow into women - who eventually are likely to have sex, which may or may not be voluntary all the time. It’s not like it’s a difficult concept."
  • "When you take a 9 year old to get a vaccination, all they hear is “needle”. I promise. They don’t hear 'break out those crotchless panties, kid.'"
  • "I always wondered what prevented nine year olds from having sex all day. Now i know the answer, thanks to Charlotte Allen - it’s the lack of a HPV vaccine!"
  • "Also, they’re obviously right since the invention of penicillin as a cure for syphilis is what caused people to start having out-of-wedlock sex for the first time in recorded history…"

  • Panel unanimously recommends cervical cancer vaccine for girls 11 and up - New York Times
  • HPV vaccine advised for girls - Washington Post
  • Abstinence double standard threatens girls' health - Alternet
  • Salon's Broadsheet
  • Merck's press release
  • Alas, a Blog wants to know why it's being framed as a "cervical cancer vaccine" instead of an "HPV vaccine" (which it is) and why it's only for girls. It's true the that vaccine is to prevent HPV, and only certain strains, but those have been targeted due to the strong link with later cervical cancer. It's a preventative, to reduce future risk, although she raises a good point about how fewer parents might vaccinate their children if it were framed as an STD vaccine instead of focusing on the cancer reduction benefits. I imagine that the vaccine was researched with an eye toward preventing cervical cancer rather than HPV itself, in any case. The research is not complete on using the vaccine in boys.
  • Just Being Myself is also angry about the backlash
  • Touch Your Blog
  • Feministe also takes on Ms. Allen
  • Moonflake doesn't mince words, and calls her post "Mothers who want their daughters to die."
  • "Betty" also hasn't read the info on the studies not being done in boys yet and the notion that preventive vaccines need to be given well before sexual activity starts. What would she recommend instead of vaccination? "Teach your children. Teach them well. Answer the hard questions. Be a parent, not a reaction. Be a thinker, not a blind follower of corporate dogma."
  • Mary Tsao at BlogHer has a tongue-in-cheek approach, "Must-have products for raising sluts," inspired by DoctorMama

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Papillomavirus, Human; Uterine Cervical Neoplasms/prevention and control; Vaccines

    Blogger tallbubba said...

    Thank you for linking to my post. Its sad really. What I think is worse, American media coverage was what 15 minutes and then it was gone. This is something that affects women all over the world daily and the American media can only be bothered to deal with it when religion and politics are involved! Keep up the fight.


    10:31 PM  

    Post a Comment

    Links to this post:

    Create a Link

    << Home