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Bill Distracts from Real Cause of HPV Cancer – By Sheri Few and James E. Stands, M.D.

January 31, 2007

Bill Distracts from Real Cause of HPV Cancer

By Sheri Few and James E. Stands, M.D.

Before any more well-meaning lawmakers sign on to a House bill intended to mandate a new cancer preventing vaccine for female children, there are important questions they might want to ask themselves.

· What about the adverse reactions from the vaccine identified in the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) study?

· What of the unknown possible long-term harmful affects?

· What is the efficacy rate and limitations of the vaccine?

· Should parents have the right to make medical decisions for their minor children?

· Should accurate medical information be provided for parents to assist them in deciding about the vaccine?

· Should we take advantage of this valuable opportunity to educate citizens about the most common sexually transmitted infection?

· And, should taxpayers be forced to pick up the tab for preventing what in most cases are the consequences of what many consider to be irresponsible and immoral behavior?

The recently introduced H. 3136, “The Cervical Cancer Prevention Act”, if passed into law, will require government-sponsored HPV vaccines for all eleven-year-old girls before they are allowed to attend school. Those of us who have been actively promoting and training adults to lead children to abstain from sexual activity until marriage have known for years that the most common sexually transmitted infection, human papilloma virus (HPV), is the cause of cervical cancer.

Much to our dismay, this important public health information was not a part of public discourse until a vaccine was developed that was shown to prevent 2 of the 15 types of HPV known to cause cervical cancer. Since 1997, when research was published proving HPV causes 99% of all cervical cancer, abstinence educators have sought to inform the public that as many women die from HPV-related cervical cancer as do HIV/AIDS. Why hasn’t the government made women aware of this public health threat before now?

In 2001, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that there is no evidence condoms prevent the transmission of the HPV virus. Could it be that the public health community feared that if citizens knew the truth about condoms they would be less likely to believe their overrated risk reduction propaganda.

Now that a pharmaceutical company has developed the vaccine that could prevent 70% of cervical cancer cases – it appears to warrant a public forum. It is a shame that the more than 50,000 women, who lost their lives to cervical cancer in the interim, could not have been forewarned that an abstinent lifestyle or a monogamous lifestyle with an uninfected partner could have prevented 99% of cervical cancer death. But now that a pharmaceutical company stands to make billions of dollars from this medical break through, women are receiving more information about the risk resulting from their sexual health choices.

We would support a bill that would mandate that the truth about this sexually transmitted disease and other life threatening and life altering sexually transmitted infections be taught in public school reproductive health classes and that the truth about condom efficacy as reported by the CDC and NIH be criteria for relative textbook adoption by the State Board of Education.

But we oppose mandatory HPV vaccines for public school entry on many fronts. Foremost, because parents are ultimately responsible for their children, and therefore we believe they should have the authority to make decisions about their health, especially ones that have moral implications. The decision to vaccinate a child against this or any other sexually transmitted disease should be up to the parent and the parent’s informed consent should be required in order for the child to be vaccinated.

In addition, sexually active women still need regular pap smears because the vaccine is only 70% effective; if you have regular pap smears the chance of getting cervical cancer is extremely low; and one of the largest OB-GYN groups in South Carolina has never seen one case of cervical cancer in women who had regular pap smears. If the cervical cancer vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancers; and because the National Cancer Institute and all leading medical associations still require cervical pap smears regularly when you become sexually active; and if it is an extremely low possibility to acquire cancer if you have regular pap smears, then why duplicate expense by requiring a vaccine and a pap test when the pap is very efficient for preventing cervical cancer?

A conservative estimate for the cost of H. 3136 to taxpayers, both federal and state, is $9 million annually. However, the greater costs could be moral and cultural. This is the first vaccine developed for an infection that is only transmitted through sexual behavior. Should it be mandatory for children and who should bear the cost?


Sheri Few is President of SC Parents Involved in Education, a non-profit educational foundation based in Elgin. Dr. James Stands is a board certified OB/GYN with over 25 years of practice in Columbia.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 18, 2007 12:55 AM

    I also think that politics should think of people’s reactions to their decision but it’s important to find decision in the fight with cervical cancer.

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