How safe is the HPV vaccine?

After successfully triggering a backlash against the movement for universal HPV vaccination, right wingers are working hard on the health-scare angle. The conservative group Judicial Watch has made public the FDA’s records on adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine:

Three deaths were related to the vaccine. One physician’s assistant reported that a female patient “died of a blood clot three hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine.” Two other reports, on girls 12 and 19, reported deaths relating to heart problems and/or blood clotting.
As of May 11, 2007, the 1,637 adverse vaccination reactions reported to the FDA via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) included 371 serious reactions. Of the 42 women who received the vaccine while pregnant, 18 experienced side effects ranging from spontaneous abortion to fetal abnormities.

Yikes, right? Well, maybe some stuff to be concerned about, and some not. After all, 77% of the “adverse reactions” were typical vaccination side effects — itching, dizziness, etc. Kaiser reports:

CDC, FDA and Merck have said that the adverse events likely were unrelated to the vaccine and were caused by underlying health problems or other factors, the Journal reports. According to CDC, two of the three women who died were taking oral contraceptives and died of blood clots, which are associated with oral contraceptives. The third, a 12-year-old girl, had heart disease and died of a heart inflammation triggered by the flu.

I read the same reports the Judicial Watch people did. One of the women died of a blood clot two weeks after receiving the vaccine. And the 12-year-old also had chicken pox and Hepatitis A vaccines on the same day. Granted, I’m not a medical professional. But nothing I read made me feel uneasy about getting the vaccine. This isn’t exactly like three women and girls have received the shot and then dropped dead on the spot — it seems like they had other health issues. I have yet to read an evaluation from an apolitical medical professional who believes these reports are an indication that the vaccine is dangerous.
All vaccines carry a certain level of risk. All come with warnings that if you have certain conditions you should probably choose not to be vaccinated. During 2003 and the first half of 2004, there were eight reported deaths related to the chicken pox vaccine. Three deaths in the past year — which may or may not be attributable to the HPV vaccine — doesn’t exactly seem like a “catalog of horrors” to me.
That said, the deaths potentially caused by oral-contraceptive-related blood clots are troubling. I’m guessing that a lot of women in the “catch-up” age range for HPV vaccination — ages 18 to 26 — are on the Pill or other hormonal contraception. And it sounds like you should just hold off on the vaccine if you’re pregnant.
This is a good time to issue a reminder about conservative hypocrisy on this issue. It’s a right-wing group that’s ringing alarm bells over reactions to the vaccine. But for years, uber-conservative groups sounded some of the loudest warnings about the dangers of HPV. (From the American Family Association, in 2003: “HPV, a Bigger Killer, Takes Back Seat to Agenda-Driven Issue of AIDS.”) But of course they wouldn’t celebrate a vaccine gaining wide acceptance, because HPV is of great use to the abstinence movement. It’s one of the few STI’s that condoms don’t effectively protect against, meaning HPV-related cervical cancer was proof of the “grim cost of sexual promiscuity” and “100 percent preventable with proper sexual behavior.” So now that there’s a vaccine for HPV, they have to catalog the “horrors!” of the adverse reactions in order to keep up their “SEX KILLS” talking point.

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45 Comments

  1. Posted May 31, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I think another interesting angle on this issue is recent legislation that is attempting to make the HPV Vaccine mandatory for young girls. What’s most fascinating to me is that this legislation is being pushed in large metropolitan areas that have a higher concentration of people of color (most recently a bill was passed in DC/Chocolate City), and mostly Black U.S. Americans. This smells to me of the phamecutical/medical establishment’s tendency to use people of color, namely Black women and girls as guinea pigs for medical experiments. The HPV vaccine has not been adequately tested for its long term affects, and mandating it on anyone should be deemed an offense. There has got to be a balance that shows an appreciation for all lives, and certainly the lives of those who have been historically deemed as expendable… Black women and girls.

  2. megan.elise
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    i am a young feminist, and i work in medical technology, and i will tell you that there is no way in hell i’m getting that vaccine for a few more years.
    The idea of this vaccine is fantastic. But I have no reason to trust Merck when they say the problems were unrelated to the vaccine. And I have everything to lose if they’re wrong or lying.
    I’m not saying that this report hasn’t been twisted by judicial watch, but i don’t think it’s a great idea to be so for this vaccine that deaths and pregnancy complications seem totally fine.
    this is a technology that should be widely available and free to anyone who wants it. i do not believe for a second that it should be mandatory until far more tests are done. if there are problems 10 years down the road, we’ll have messed up a whole generation of women with our overzealousness to mandate this vaccine.

  3. Posted May 31, 2007 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read up that much on the vaccine. Anyone know how much it costs about to get it?

  4. MomOTwins
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    OK, from someone who has worked in pharmaceutical research and development for many years (and have the gray hair to prove it), the thing that everyone is missing out on, including Judicial Watch, is HOW MANY FOLKS GOT THE VACCINE??? If you don’t have that number, you can’t calculate relative risk of vaccination. Typical warning information from the FDA won’t show up until the really scary stuff affects at least 0.5% to 1% of the folks who got the product. So unless we have that number, this scare tactic doesn’t make any sense.
    The other BIG issue – if you have pre-existing conditions that should have ruled you ineligible to get the meds, the event (even if it is death) may not be able to be clearly tied to the product. So women who were already medically challenged should not be included in the confirmed “injured due to vaccine” discussion. Scare tactics like this totally piss me off, because folks who would benefit by vaccination will be scared off by this kind of crap.
    [Blackgirl has it slightly skewed, the state of Texas (not just Houston or Dallas) was trying to get this mandated, and they weren't focusing on just women/girls of color.]

  5. oenophile
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    The anti-mandatory Gardasil group is made up of social conservatives who don’t think that the government ought to mandate an STD vaccine; libertarians who don’t think that the government ought to mandate any vaccines, or, if it does so mandate, only those that treat diseases that would interfere with its educational mission; and some feminists, who don’t like the idea of Merck getting rich off of its use of women as guinea pigs – i.e. those who want more testing.
    I hate a mandate of chicken pox vaccine. I hate that I had to get Hep B to go to law school. I’m not against Gardasil, just against making it mandatory for girls. I would be happy with a strong suggestion; I would be happy with colleges mandating it (as 18 is a reasonable age at which to make the decision), or allowing 16-year-olds to get it without parental consent, but I don’t like mandating it.
    That’s the libertarian camp. It has nothing to do with punishing women for having sex.

  6. Andrea
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    As soon as Gardasil came out I nagged my daughters (both in their early twenties) into going to our family doctor to get vaccinated. I was amazed. The doctor gave them a lecture on the evils of promiscuity, and later the nurse was making cracks about “cancer of the hoo-hah”. What the heck is wrong with people?
    A vaccine against cancer! If this were anything but uterine cancer, people would be celebrating like it was Mardi Gras!

  7. Barbara P
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    FTR, I think the HPV vaccine is a good thing, and plan to have it for my daughter when she’s older.
    That said, I hate to think that just because the extreme right is irrationally against the vaccine means that everyone who’s not extreme right has to be irrationally for it.
    If there are risks (and who knows? there could well be) let’s be open to that possibility. Just because other vaccines are relatively safe does not mean this one is. And if it’s NOT actually safe, that doesn’t mean that Merck scientists didn’t have good intentions in making the vaccine. (I happen to know a Merck scientist personally, and she is very dedicated to helping people with her work. Maybe she’s some kind of exception, but I doubt it.) Would Merck try to cover its ass if there were serious safety questions about this vaccine? Probably, but that doesn’t make them inherently some “big, bad, evil company” who doesn’t give a shit about women. It means we need to question the system in which pharmaceuticals are developed and tested, and an incentive/disincentive structure in which a company like Merck would never want to admit problems.
    Unfortunately, I just don’t think there are easy answers here, and I really hope that feminists don’t ignore potential problems with the HPV vaccine just because having it strikes a blow against abstinence-only programs! Those programs are digging their own grave anyway.

  8. Barbara P
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    BTW, the cost of the vaccine is between $350-$400.
    Also, cervical cancer is pretty rare, at least in the U.S., due to the widespread administration of pap smears. (And just having the HPV vaccine will not eliminate the need for pap smears, unfortunately.)
    Again, this doens’t stop me from seeing Gardasil as a good thing; it’s just more information.

  9. Voila
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I personally am not comfortable with making this mandatory right now. I feel they need to conduct more studies on more people to ensure both short and long term safety and effectiveness. There was just too much controversy when Merck first announced the drug and govt officials driving to make it law. There have been a few instances in the past where a drug was recalled because after FDA initially approved, numbers came in that showed the drug was actually NOT safe. By the time any daughters I haven’t had yet are old enough to take this vaccine, I’ll know for sure whether it’s a good thing or not.
    I don’t however feel that whether this drug is mandatory, available or completely recalled that women or girls will be more or less sexually active. That’s bull. That’s a horrible reason for conservatives to deny women health care, and it just proves that they really don’t care about women, just control them. But that’s not really news.

  10. penelope traintrax
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    re:”It has nothing to do with punishing women for having sex.”
    It seems to me that this whole debate smacks of that old ” girls are dirty” thing. And I don’t think it is just conservatives who are against it. I think there are a lot of people who se it as another avoidance of the discussion about safe and safer sex, and teenage exploration, and rather than providing the teens with information about the ten thousand other ways that sex can be enjoyed( which is way ahead of and too ‘farr out’ from the current social climate) we just throw a bandaid on it, and give tem a shot…
    Also I have a friend in Texas who was ‘terminated’ while working at Planned Parenthood because she openly vocalized that same sentiment: women of color are being advised to abort more often, and treated as higher risk, counseled differently, etc.

  11. aniri
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    I am just outraged with the whole idea of mandating a vaccine. Our immune systems are damaged before we are able to speak or walk. There have been strong connections between vaccinations and autism, which is just one example of how vaccines can do much more damage than good. I also know enough people who never had ANY shots done and they are perfectly healthy individuals.
    Enough with overmedicating!!! This is not even about feminism. This is our health, our bodies, the future of our children. There are many other ways to promote health than to shove needles into little girls’ arms JUST IN CASE. I won’t accept that it’s necessary. And it should never EVER be mandated.

  12. VeriteBlesse
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Penelope, am I understanding you correctly? Your friend was fired because she felt women of color were being encouraged to abort more often?

  13. EG
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Aniri, as far as I know, there has been no connection shown between vaccines and autism. Your post is the direct result of how successful vaccines have been. Children used to die of polio, babies were born with horrible birth defects due to rubella, and children lost their hearing to mumps. Kids broke their ribs during whooping cough. Those illnesses are now practically unknown in the first world–and yet you claim that vaccines do more harm than good. Well, to quote a doctor I once knew who spent time working in the third world, whooping cough sounds quaint and harmless until you’ve actually heard a child choking to death on its own spittle.
    I developed asthma on the heels of a bad bout of respiratory flu that neither my roommate nor my boyfriend contracted. They’d both gotten the flu vaccine that year. I, in my infinite 23-year-old wisdom, hadn’t.
    The people you know who have been fine without vaccines are benefiting from herd immunity–they’re riding the coattails of the vast majority of their peers, who have been vaccinated. In the UK this year, enough people opted out of vaccines that a measles outbreak occurred, causing at least one death (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/5081286.stm). By opting not to be vaccinated when they safely can be, they are putting themselves, those around them with compromised immune systems who cannot be vaccinated, and those around them who have not yet been vaccinated at risk.
    By all means, opt out vaccination, if you want to take the risk. But don’t claim that vaccines do more harm than good, unless you consider the vast drop in infant and child mortality that the first world has witnessed this century to be harm.

  14. Liz
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I recieved the vaccine (at least the 1st shot so far), and no bad side effects, besides me passing out but that always happens. I am happy I got it and it has not changed my sexual activity or practicing safe sex.
    But anyways, many insurance companies do cover it for free. And I’m sure planned parenthood would have a sliding scale for it.

  15. aniri
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    EG,
    Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful response to my post. I understand completely where you are coming from and your point is totally valid. Vaccines indeed have created many positive changes. However, while they’ve brought great results in the past does not mean that they should continue to be used as widely as they are. Adjustments always need to be made to go along with the times, hygiene practices, prevailance of diseases, etc. The amount of vaccines received by children these days is NOT necessary. We are living in a different world than we were 100 years ago and adjustements need to be made.
    For example, flouride used to be thought of as the way to maintain dental health. But we are finding out more and more that it’s actually quite the opposite and that flouride can do a lot of damage to teeth and also affect children’s development. So we need to take what we learn and move on.
    I don’t want to drag this out too much, but I hope you understand what I mean. We need to look at our environments, our diets, our life styles, what type of household and beauty products we use, how much sleep we get, how we manage our stress. All of these factors contribute to a lof of current conditions and illnesses. Vaccines were an answer at one point in history and while some may still be necessary, discretion MUST be applied.

  16. Susan
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    “Mandating” does not really mean anyone is forced to get vaccinated; you can always opt out– for instance, by saying you have religious objections. We have “mandated” HepB vaccination here in CA and I opted out until I felt my kids were old enough to even have to worry about getting HepB (after consultation with their pediatrician, of course).
    What “mandating” does is force insurance companies to pay for the vaccinations. Granted, this is good for BigPharma, because more people get the vaccine, but it also allows more people who want it but can’t afford it to have access to it.
    I left it up to my daughter and, after hearing about risks, etc. from her ObGyn, she decided to get vaccinated. I’ll do the same, once our insurance plan covers it.

  17. JenLovesPonies
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    Aniri, I am not going to lie, I just don’t understand where you are coming from. We live in an increasingly global world. Yes, in Western society, we probably wash our hands more than our foreparents did. Since most of the things we get shots for have nothing to do with our hygiene, and since even rare diseases are still occasionally transmitted, isn’t it better to get our shots if we can? Today’s child might be traveling the globe tomorrow- and certainly, vaccines are not universal, and diseases more or less gone from the child’s hometown might be in the coutries he or she travels to. Especially in light of germ warfare and the recent TB traveler.
    What vaccines would you recommend children not receiving and why?

  18. Anarchist Penguin
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I don’t know what to say, really. I hope that the vaccine really is safe, because I’m two shots in. I know I haven’t had any problems with it, but then, I wasn’t on birth control at the same time.
    Before I got it, my mother and I (I’m 16) sat down and talked about the vaccine and what its for, safe sex, ect. And then I decided that I wanted to get it, because I felt the vaccine risks were fine, when compared to cervical cancer.
    Obviously this isn’t going to be everyone’s experience, and I’m lucky that I have a liberal mother who believes in informed decision. Just felt like contributing my $.02.

  19. SassyGirl
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I am by NO means right wing or conservative, BUT I am the mother of a vaccine damaged child and I belong to a group of other parents who also have vaccine damaged children. Due to this, I am adamantly opposed to any mandates of any vaccine. There have been many reactions to the Gardasil vaccine, if you go to VAERS, you can read about each and every reaction.
    I am SO sick and tired of being painted as a right wing conservative who is opposed to sex when I am merely a considered citizen who doesn’t want to see girls hurt by a potentially unsafe vaccine. I am all about exploring your own sexuality in your own way with as many people as you want (personally, I had many lovers when I was younger and have no rerets). Please just stop saying that it is only the right wing opposing this, it is not only inaccurate, but annoying.

  20. SassyGirl
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    “”Mandating” does not really mean anyone is forced to get vaccinated; you can always opt out– for instance, by saying you have religious objections. We have “mandated” HepB vaccination here in CA and I opted out”
    It isn’t that easy to opt out in some states. There are two states that do not have religious exemptions, only medical and those are hard to obtain. Some states, I heard that New York is one them, can deny your religious exemption if they don’t feel that it is sincere enough. Luckily, I am in Michigan where we also have a philosophical exemption, so I just had to sign a form stating that I object to having my children vaccinated.
    AND, even if you are in a state that has exemptions and they are easily obtained, not many people know about them. It isn’t widely publicized that you can opt out and many parents do not feel that they have a choice.

  21. SassyGirl
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Oh, and there is research suggesting a connection between vaccines and autism. It was conducted a couple of years ago at Columbia University, I believe that the researcher was Dr. Mady Hornig (I am probably off on the spelling).

  22. aniri
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Dear JenLovesPonies,
    Once again, your argument is valid. We do live in a global world and some vaccines may still be necessary especially to prevent diseases when traveling to other parts of the world. But I am still a stern believer that vaccines are not innocent shots that have no side effects or reprecussions. I am not a physician and will not make any recommendations as to what vaccines should or should not be administered, but even if you read SassyGirl’s comments you’ll realize that once a person sees the negative effects of a vaccine on their own child it changes everything.
    There is a lot of literature out there and you can certainly read up about the negative effects of vaccines simply by googling the information.
    Once again, I am not advocating eliminating vaccines alltogether (for the very reasons I bring up above), but as a society we have to become more critical of what is being put into our bodies and the bodies of our children and have a deeper understanding of how these “shots” are affecting us.

  23. KP
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    IL and some other states are taking the approach of mandating education for the vaccine. You have to sign a form stating that your (child’s) doctor informed you of the vaccine – rather than mandating actually receiving it. I like this approach in theory, inform people and then allow them to decide what’s best for their family.

  24. Lou
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Re: Vaccines and autism
    There were several articles a few months ago about a possible connection between the vaccines children are getting now and the development of autism. The trigger seemed to be mercury (specifically Thiomersal, an organomercury) in the vaccines that helps preserve them. According to one of the articles (I have since lost the url) after getting the various vaccines that are now required in the US, the level of mercury in children’s bodies was WAAAAYYYY higher than it was supposed to be, as a result of the Thiomersal in the vaccines. They’re thinking that this has become an issue because children are required to get so many more vaccines now than they used to. The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and DPT (diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetnaus) vaccines have been staples for a while, but now they’ve added varicella (chicken pox) and several others, thus increasing the amount of Thiomersal that children are exposed to at early ages. And like I said, it’s this mercury that they think is making autism more prevalent now than it has been before. Though some of those cases are, I’m sure, due to better diagnostics.

  25. hdawg
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I got it. It was only partially covered by insurance, which I thought was lame. I had itching after one shot.
    A few friends older than I (I’m now 27, so I got it before the cutoff) have had blood issues simply from birth control, specifically OrthoEvra. They were not getting vaccines at the time, they simply went on BC and ended up on blood thinners and extended proscriptions against physical activity until the clot dissolved. Scary.
    Two major items from the history of medicine that lead me to believe HPV or vaccines can’t be that bad: the original BC designed in the 60s had TEN TIMES the amount of hormones we use today – which led to serious blood clot issues. BC is probably more the culprit than the vaccine in HPV’s case. In addition, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and other childhood diseases KILL, and are contagious! Of course children should be vaccinated, for everyone’s safety, lest they oh, perhaps, have a disease, get on a plane, or seven…you see where this is going? Yeah. There is NOT conclusive proof that autism results from vaccines, yet somehow parents’ risk “assessment” (in my mind, selfish conclusions) put everyone on the playground at risk of diseases that should be relegated to the middle ages.
    But this is my opinion, and I also think all children should be put in work camps (solves that cheap labor/immigration problem), so it’s a viewpoint that usually ends up discounted in what translates through to TeeVee “debates”.

  26. nausicaa
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    “But this is my opinion, and I also think all children should be put in work camps (solves that cheap labor/immigration problem)”
    Heh. But seriously folks, the HPV vaccine prevents cancer! That is a Very Good Thing. As for the connection to race and poverty — it is a very sad fact that poor and minority women have the highest death rates from cervical cancer. This is because they don’t get the same preventative care as rich women. To target them for the HPV vaccine is actually quite progressive and sensible, a way to neutralize the effects of poverty on health.
    As for birth control — it turns out that the new generation of hormones (desogestrel) and delivery systems (the patch and Nuvaring, which both contain forms of desogestrol) carry a higher risk of complications like blood clots. This is in part because of the novel form of hormone, and in part because methods like the patch expose you to more estrogen. Better to stick to the older, more tested forms if you can.
    http://www.citizen.org/publications/release.cfm?ID=7503
    http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=2081

  27. suspended disbelief
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    My boss was in charge of the development of this vaccine; in fact, he pushed for it because he believed it would help a lot of people. Now he’s working for a nonprofit organization that’s trying to come up with better treatments for mental illnesses. He told me it’s perfectly safe and extremely effective, and I believe him.

  28. Dianne
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Hard to know what to make of these reports. The death 3 hours after vaccination probably wasn’t related to the vaccine–it takes a while for blood clots to form, especially clots large enough to cause death–unless there was some really unusual biology involved. It could be–god knows there are enough unknowns about the human body– and I hope they investigate the death thoroughly, but I’d be suprised if it turned out to be related in the end. The other two…maybe, maybe not. There’s really not enough information to say, at least not that has been made public yet.
    It’s also hard to know whether the pregnancy outcomes had anything to do with the vaccine or not. The vaccine is not recommended in pregnancy because proper studies haven’t been done yet, so if it was given it was probably given because the women involved had some particularly high risk that made waiting seem like a bad idea. So they were probably also high risk pregnancies to start with. But I wouldn’t recommend getting the vaccine while pregnant anyway. Wait until it’s been properly tested.
    The only one that really struck me as problematic was the reports of Guillan-Barre syndrome. But that can occur with any vaccine and unless the rates were very high I wouldn’t worry about it: It’s the normal risk of any vaccination.
    While it’s true that pap smears help keep cervical cancer rates in the US relatively low, pap smears have a false negative rate and not everyone gets them. Plus HPV may be related to other cancers, including oral cavity (yes, acquired like you think) and other reproductive system cancers (including cancers of the male reproductive tract.) So better to make the viruses involved extinct as soon as possible than to rely on testing for them.
    PS: Full disclosure: I have not had the vaccine because my gyn basically told me that at 39 with a permanent partner and no history of HPV exposure I’m too low risk to waste a vaccine on. I’ll get it as soon as I can convince anyone to give it to me.

  29. micheyd
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    There was debate at one time about a link between thiomersal and vaccines, because one study was *inconclusive*. Then a slew of follow-up studies showed no evidence of that link.
    Search Pubmed (www.pubmed.com) to see for yourself. There’s a great study on there that reviews all the recent literature (as of Nov 2006).
    So please, don’t go around saying vaccines may cause autism. It’s a widely disproved claim that has done more harm than good.

  30. Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    This vaccine may have some safty issues; i can’t know for sure that it won’t.
    HOWEVER, whether it is advisable can’t be determined only with reference to any vaccine-caused problems; it also requires balancing the vaccine-given benefits.
    ———-
    That said: be careful of believing the anti-vaccination crowd. I’ve been arguing with them for a while, and there’s a frightening tendency to misrepresent scientific facts. Autism claims are only the tip of the barrel.
    That reference to VAERS,for example? Looks good, sounds official. Looks like a VAERS report might actually be maningful.
    Until, that is, you see this on the VAERS site:
    In some media reports and on some web sites on the Internet, VAERS reports are presented as verified cases of vaccine deaths and injuries. Statements such as these misrepresent the nature of the VAERS surveillance system. (bold is from the original post and has not been added.)
    (from http://vaers.hhs.gov/info.htm)
    That is only one of many paragraphs of the disclaimers on that page; I encourage anyone curious to reads them all. VAERS as a reporting system? OK. VAERS as a decision making tool? Not OK.
    People implying or claiming that VAERS data is relevant? Not OK, and a serious credibility issue.
    the reasons for mandatory vaccination are many.
    First, it helps to attain herd immunity.
    Second, it attempts to accommodate the realities of teen sexual behavior. Want to wait until they’re 18-year-old “adults?” Chances are pretty decent they’ve already gotten HPV.
    I mean, not to sound too snarky, but if we could trust teenage boys and girls to make intelligent choices, and trust the parents of said boys and girls to accurately assess the risks to their kids, we wouldn’t be here now.
    there are more reasons, of course, but no time to list them all ;)

  31. LaraAriadne
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    If I remember correctly, thiomersal hasn’t been used in vaccines for several years now.
    If there was a link between thiomersal and autism, we should be seeing a steep decline in new cases now that thiomersal is no longer in use, but we haven’t seen such a drop.

  32. Kelly D
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I’d have to agree totally with MomOTwins, even if there were adverse reactions as a direct result of receiving the vaccine, how many people in total received the vaccine? Without that number, we can’t generalize the risk to the rest of the population. Unfortunately, there isn’t a medical procedure out there that will not cause an adverse reaction in someone sometime. I see this similar to hopping in the car everyday – which is a much greater risk (death and injury) for us all in comparison to the HPV vaccine.
    Also, I’d like to defend condoms with regard to their protection against HPV. I don’t think it’s fair to say condoms “don’t effectively protect againstâ€? HPV as (even) the CDC notes, “[w]hile the effect of condoms in preventing human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease.â€? (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/facts/condoms.htm) Furthermore, there is evidence that consistently using condoms can even help people clear the virus and protect against reinfection. People are understandably worried about HPV and its deleterious effects, and they should know that condoms can help (Holmes KK et al. Effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2004; 82:454-461; Hogewoning CJA et al. Condom use promotes regression of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and clearance of human papillomavirus: a randomized clinical trial. International Journal of Cancer 2003; 107:811-816.).

  33. Posted June 1, 2007 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to thank Kelly D in defending condoms and their ability to at least reduce HPV infection. A few months ago I read of a wonderful study that was done at the University of Washington over a four year period. They recruited women from campus who were still virgins, on the verge of becoming sexually active for the first time, and followed them throughout the rest of their college career. Each volunteer was asked to journal the details of each sexual encounter and then submit anonymously over the computer. The ability to do this anonymously increased the quality of the information they were able to obtain. They were especially interested in whether a condom had been used, if so, when, what was touched, all the intimate details. Each volunteer was then asked to come to University Health Services once every 4 months to be tested for HPV. The results of the study showed that women who used a condom with every episode of intercourse reduced their changes of acquiring HPV by 70%. Not 100% but still quite significant.

  34. SassyGirl
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=38784
    Actually, California’s cases of autism are dropping. The removal of thimerosal is a volunary one, doctors who still have vaccines that contain it are still using it and I have read that the ingredients put into the vaccines can still be preserved with it, BUT the actual vaccine isn’t. The flu vaccine still contains it, as well as some of the DPT vaccines.
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=38784

  35. ekf
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I am astonished that any doctor would administer a vaccine to a woman s/he knew to be pregnant, and that a woman who knew herself to be pregnant would agree to be vaccinated. I have no qualms about people in general getting vaccinated for diseases for which they may be at risk. I’m not at all anti-vaccination (although I was sickened by a report I heard about that showed Thimerosal-preserved vaccines are still manufactured but are sent to the third world, where the awareness about Thimerosal risks are lower).
    That being said, I’m pregnant and I’m not supposed to take Advil…or drink more than 50mg of caffeine a day…or eat more than 12 grams of any fish in a week’s time…or eat deli meat that hasn’t been cooked to steaming. The idea of getting a vaccine in the middle of pregnancy sounds utterly preposterous and reckless, and considering it takes not only a pregnant woman but a licensed physician to make happen, I am completely boggled at the thought.
    I can’t even fathom how that would happen. There are tons of avenues of medical research that simply haven’t been conducted because of the medical establishment’s skittishness with respect to negative pregnancy outcomes and the political repercussions. How giving pregnant women the HPV vaccine got past the research gatekeepers is completely beyond me.

  36. penelope traintrax
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Verite: Yup, that’s what she said. She believes that PlPa has been infiltrated, and is moving towards some racist policies, and she claims she was ‘silenced’ because of it.

  37. oenophile
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I am SO sick and tired of being painted as a right wing conservative who is opposed to sex when I am merely a considered citizen who doesn’t want to see girls hurt by a potentially unsafe vaccine.
    Ditto that, SassyGirl.
    I’m an atheist. I have strong philosophical objections to the HPV and HepB vaccines (for myself, as a requirement). Religious mandates don’t help me, unless you consider libertarianism and my own adulthood (and therefore, my ability to decide for myself) to be a religion.

  38. VeriteBlesse
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Penelope. I’m always interested/wary when I hear anything about other Planned Parenthood affiliates. People assume we are all connected and we are not. If anyone ever suggested to me that we counseled any women to abort I would be furious. I’m completely in love with where I work, but who knows what goes on in other affiliates, especially behind closed doors.

  39. Kelly D
    Posted June 2, 2007 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks TJ! I am so happy my defense of condoms was acknowledged and appreciated. :)

  40. SassyGirl
    Posted June 2, 2007 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    “I’m an atheist. I have strong philosophical objections to the HPV and HepB vaccines (for myself, as a requirement). Religious mandates don’t help me, unless you consider libertarianism and my own adulthood (and therefore, my ability to decide for myself) to be a religion.”
    Every state is different, but I know that here in Michigan, you don’t have to disclose a specific religion to obtain a religious exemption. People just need to know the laws for their state when filing an exemption and word it EXACTLY how the law states it should be. Personally, I really liked being able to file a philosophical exemption for my children because I am also an atheist and did not want to say it was about religion.

  41. penelope traintrax
    Posted June 2, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Verite: yeah, thanks for this tidbit, I had no idea myself “People assume we are all connected and we are not.”
    It was indeed a strange story to hear from her as well, and yet I know there is massive co-option of organizations going on all over, and hidden agendas ( even when those with the agendas are unaware that they have them!). It didn’t surprise me that it was Texas.

  42. Posted June 3, 2007 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    In Florida, you do have to have a specific religious reason to get an exemption to vaccines. And, a study in Pediatrics showed that at least 50% of pediatricians will refuse to accept children as clients if they are unvaccinated. It’s happened to me.
    Thanks for pointing out that some vaccines do still contain thimerosal. There is also a question about the measles vaccine being related to a specific type of autism.

  43. SassyGirl
    Posted June 3, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    “at least 50% of pediatricians will refuse to accept children as clients if they are unvaccinated. It’s happened to me.”
    I have never had a doctor refuse to see my children, but I had a few who were jerks about it. We did luck out when we found a great doctor out here who doesn’t only respect our decision not to vaccinate, but she supports it and even has a binder full of information about the adverse effects of vaccines, she also does homebirths, which I think is wonderful!

  44. SassyGirl
    Posted June 3, 2007 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    “at least 50% of pediatricians will refuse to accept children as clients if they are unvaccinated. It’s happened to me.”
    I have never had a doctor refuse to see my children, but I had a few who were jerks about it. We did luck out when we found a great doctor out here who doesn’t only respect our decision not to vaccinate, but she supports it and even has a binder full of information about the adverse effects of vaccines, she also does homebirths, which I think is wonderful!

  45. micheyd
    Posted June 4, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    For the last time, people, there is *no* evidence of thiomersal being related to autism. None. So don’t keep spouting off that worry like it’s a fact.

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