Media divides politically on Gardasil

Media divides politically on Gardasil

Summary: A lot of women are going to die decades from now because their parents demanded absolute certainty and science does not give those kinds of answers.

TOPICS: Health

What is an editor to do when a medical story crosses the desk that can be spun either way?

Spin it the way your politics tell you to.

The subject here is Gardasil, an HPV vaccine by Merck that needs to be given to women years before starting sexual activity to be effective.

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association calls the science behind Gardasil sound, but notes it does not protect against all HPV viruses that might cause cancer, and that it's tough to do a study linking such a vaccine to cancer rates 20-40 years later.

JAMA then offers two studies, one covering the marketing of the vaccine, ethically questionable due to close relations between medical societies and Merck, the vaccine maker, and another covering side effects. The second study is inconclusive, noting that most side effects reported so far are "not serious" but more rigorous study is needed.

Merck, of course, put out an all-clear news release. Some states, like Virginia, are pushing the vaccine for girls as young as 12. Merck is also rolling out a big back to school marketing campaign for the vaccine.

Thus we have headlines like this from Medical News, "side effects as expected." It "seems safe", writes HealthDayNews. It's deemed safe, writes dbTechno.

But what if you want to spin the same facts the other way? What if it's in your business interests to keep up the scare or your politics leans to not wanting girls' lady parts protected against cancer for fear it might lead to teh sex.

No problem. "CDC Report Stirs Controversy for Merck's Gardasil Vaccine," thunders ABC News, followed by an anecdotal lead of a mother who is convinced the vaccine killed her 21 year old. (Note that it's not recommended for women who have begun having sexual relations.)

Or you can play the false equivalence game, emphasizing any risks or uncertainty in the JAMA articles.

Additional questions on Gardasil, writes The Wall Street Journal. The vaccine still faces additional questions, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer. Benefits despite some risks, writes The New York Times.

HPV vaccine safe but doctors still wary, writes Time. Vaccine may be going to the wrong women, writes USA Today, noting that upper class girls are getting it but lower class girls at greater risk are not.

Want a real political spin? Here's a good one. "Gardasil controversy puts real moms vs. actor moms," from an outfit called Flesh and Stone. Who are you going to believe, Madison Avenue science or real moms' imagined fears?

The mothers of at-risk girls aren't going to be convinced by what the radio is putting out. Should your daughters get the HPV vaccine, asks KPBS. (It's the transcript of a call-in show and the answer is a definite maybe.)

In fact the science is pretty clear.

There are side-effects and risk with any vaccine, and those with Gardasil are within the normal range. It targets the most-likely sources of HPV infection and is most effective if taken years before starting sex. Coordinating marketing is not a problem if the medical society agrees with the message.

But since we're talking girls and sex politics is going to win out. As a result a lot of women are going to die decades from now because their parents demanded absolute certainty and science does not give those kinds of answers.

Topic: Health

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  • Hold on there, tiger

    To come out as questionable as to whether Gardisil significantly reduces the cancer risk and is worthwhile, you label such opinions as fear-mongering. But a not-so ringing endorsement of "seems to work", the equivalent of an literary shrug, should be taken as bible? Followed up with the slippery slope destination of CERTAIN DEATH!!!!!

    Bravo /s
    • LOL.. so true

      so true. I love this guy.
    • It's all commercial interests...

      and Dana falls for its propaganda. As usual...
  • Gardasil = more fearmongering, bought science

    Gardasil, like most "vaccines", is fearmongering BS.

    Gardasil's motto is "one less".. interesting choice of words because Gardasil has been linked to infertility.

    Also worth noting is Gardasil targets a handful of strains of HPV virus when there are over 100 active strains - so you are compromising your natural immune system based on fearmongering and bought science while leaving yourself susceptible to the 95+ other strains of HPV - and that's only if Gardasil actually works in the first place.

    Vaccine industry = fearmongering for profit. They care nothing about true health. Their interest lies in maintaining profit for their shareholders.
    • "Vaccine industry = fearmongering for profit."

      This bold-faced declaration is completely counter to the facts.

      The following report:

      ([i]Table 2 Baseline 20th century annual morbidity and 1998 provisional morbidity from nine diseases with vaccines recommended before 1990 for universal use in children - United States[/i])

      Clearly establishes that the advent of vaccines in the United States has dramatically reduced morbidity for 9 top infectious diseases over the last Century:

      ........................................... 1998
      .............. Baseline .......... Provisional
      ............. 20th century ....... annual
      Disease ..... morbidity ......... morbidity ...... % Decrease

      Smallpox ....... 48,164 ............ 0 ........ 100%
      Diphtheria .... 175,885 ............ 1 ........ 100%
      Pertussis ..... 147,271 ......... 6,279 ...... 95.7%
      Tetanus ......... 1,314 ............ 34 ........ 97.4%
      Poliomyelitis .. 16,316 ............ 0 ......... 100%
      Measles ....... 503,282 ............ 89 ........ 100%
      Mumps ......... 152,209 ........... 606 ....... 99.6%
      Rubella ........ 47,745 ........... 345 ........ 99.3%
      Con. Rubella ...... 823 ............. 5 ........ 99.4%
      H. influenzae b . 20,000 .......... 54 ........ 99.7%

      No doubt about it - vaccines save lives in numbers orders of magnitude more than the few people who have severe adverse reactions to vaccines.

      Logic should lead one to consider that, if an individual does have a severe reaction to a vaccine, then their likelihood of surviving the actual infection is in grave doubt.
  • But wait -- there's MORE!

    Dana, you've missed a major point. You write:
    > Some states, like Virginia, are pushing the vaccine for girls as young as 12. <

    At what point does an editor's sensibility machine kick in and ask what business any state has in mandating injections on it's citizens when the outcome is unclear at best, and could be prematurely disabling or fatal at worst?

    Can a state government like Virginia's simply write off the results of significant contraindications as 'acceptable losses for the greater good'?

    You conclude, >...parents demanded absolute certainty and science does not give those kinds of answers. <

    When a government moves aggressively toward requiring the inoculation of it's citizens, THAT feels like certainty to me.

    Further, rather than spinning a story like this, would a legitimate investigative journalist/editor have looked to see where Merck's money is going (and in what amounts) in order to sell this product to the masses via their state and national public healthcare systems?

    Makes one wonder.
    • There Is No Government Mandate For Gardasil

      At the state or federal level.

      The Federal government [u]recommended[/u] giving the Gardasil vaccine to all girls aged 11 to to 12 shortly after Gardasil was approved in June 2006. Recommendation is not a mandate.

      The Texas governor attempted to mandate Gardasil vaccination, but was overruled by the Texas legislature.

      Virgina and the District of Columbia have "mandated" vaccination with Gardasil, but have specific provisions for parents to simply opt out of the mandate and decline the vaccine for their children. Therefore, the Virgina and D.C. "mandates" are not mandates at all.

      So there is no state or federal mandate for administering the Gardasil vaccine. Your "FEELing of certainty" is strictly a perception, not a fact.

      Speaking of the sensibility test - you present your personal perceptions and bias without regard for the actual documented facts. That should be cause for pause for anyone of integrity before casting aspersions at someone else.

      In other words, take a good look in your mirror. Dana provided an objective review. You came here with an agenda.
  • Poylysorbate 80's been around since 1987

    Used in all kinds of products, including ice cream, so it's highly possible that the volume of consumption over time has a far greater effect on fertility than a single injection.

    Yeah, Gardasil only covers 5% of the 100 or so strains of HPV out there; but that 5% account for over 70% of the cervical cancers and the majority of genital warts. Over 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. every year. 4000 die from it. Universal use of this vaccine can prevent 8399 new cases and prevent the deaths of 2746 women each year.

    HPV can cause penile and anal (NOT Colon!) cancer in men. The type that causes genital warts in men is not the type that causes the cancers.

    Women get cervical cancer 6 times more often then men get penile or anal cancer.

    The thing is, vaccinating the women may save women, but it won't erradicate the HPV strains because the men will continue to be a reservoir for the virus. I suspect a deliberate, calculated decision by Merck, et al. to not recommend or offer this vaccine to boys in order to keep a perpetual requirement to vaccinate women.

    The reason for recommending early vaccination of girls is that HPV is extremely prevelant in the population and is very easy to transmit. So much so that a single experimental contact between a boy and a girl is enough to pass it on. Once you have the virus, the vaccine isn't going to do you any good.
  • RE: Media divides politically on Gardasil

    How about a "spin-o-meter" with the calibration from Left to Right with "objective, factual, spinless" in the middle?
  • RE: Media divides politically on Gardasil

    As an OB-GYN of 20+ years, I DO NOT recommend this
    vaccine. I I have read the studies that have been done,
    the Morbidity and mortality reports and the anecdotal
    accounts. All in all, the risk outweighs the benefit
    • Thank You For Your Comment

      This report from the National Vaccine Information Center from February 2009 is very pertinent:

      The bottom line is that the NVIC recommends that:

      - Congress investigate the "fast tracking" of Gardasil to approval for likely compromises of public safety;

      - The FDA and the CDC should investigate reports of adverse reactions to Gardasil;

      - The recommendation to administer Gardasil should be reconsidered until Merck can improve the vaccine's safety.

      Gardasil is a great idea contributing to public health. However, like Glaxko-Smith-Kline's Paxil drug, Gardasil seems to have been rushed through approval without regard for public safeguards.

      This is another case in point for having effective FDA oversight for new drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are ardently pursuing profits without regard to the public safety. The FDA is supposed to be protecting the public, but is too often "asleep at their post."
  • I Am Afraid That You Have Hit The Nail On The Head

    again, Dana Blankenhorn.

    Your article highlights the historical tension between those who seek to understand and cure diseases and those who wish to ban such understanding and cures in the name of "scourging the sinners."

    Yes, it is very likely that many of our young women will continue to be shackled in repressed closets of irrational inhibitions.

    The keys are education and economic freedom. Educated children grow into informed adults who tend to make more responsible and safer solutions than kids raised in ignorance, intimidation, and guilt.

    Once women have economic freedom and education, they will seize for themselves all the same liberties men expect - where to live, how to live, and with whom to sleep when they so choose.

    However, is Gardasil actually safe for the public? Further research raises serious concerns: