In light of the most recent Congressional vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood, I would like my response to reflect the same approach I’ve had to this issue for most of my life. Some folks know that about ten years ago I embarked on a project called The Faces of Choice where I endeavored to provide a forum for women to tell their stories regarding difficult or unwanted pregnancies. I wanted to elevate the conversation to include women that chose termination as well as those who didn’t, but nonetheless struggled with the decision (because it is NEVER an easy one). I had hoped to publish these stories as a book and that didn’t work out. I then moved on to creating a website where a community could be established for women who wanted to share their stories and support each other. For a whole host of reasons, that didn’t take off, either. But the website still exists and I write here about why I was so passionate about the work. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but if anyone is on the fence about whether or not it is important to fund the work that organizations like Planned Parenthood does and to stay the hell out of a woman’s private medical decisions, I encourage you to go read it.
When I took the girls for their annual back-to-school physicals in August, it was to a new doctor. The pediatrician they grew up with had a few strikes against him including the fact that he is male and my girls are getting to an age where that feels weird. He is also a professor at the local medical school which means his hours are limited in the clinic. I did a little research, as much as is possible online, to find a new doctor who might be more open to my parenting methods (ie. not mocking me for keeping my kids gluten free despite the fact that neither of them has Celiac disease, not prescribing antibiotics for every single thing, not pressing me on the chickenpox or HPV vaccines).
The girls both really liked this new doctor, but at the end of Lola’s visit, she still pulled out the state’s printout of their current vaccinations and pointed out that they are both missing the chickenpox and HPV vaccines. I told her I wasn’t comfortable giving either of them those vaccines and she implored me to rethink it, telling me that she feels like they are both perfectly safe. I didn’t have the balls or the time to ask where she formed that opinion.
I have since read more and more about the HPV vaccine (namely, Gardasil) that scares the crap out of me. In the interest of paraphrasing for those of you who don’t wish to read the clinical studies or spend nearly an hour watching the YouTube video below, let me share what I’ve learned thus far. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I am NOT a physician or a clinical researcher, but I did graduate college with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry and spent eight years as a medical/surgical assistant in various settings. I feel pretty confident in my ability to dissect a medical study. Here goes:
- The HPV vaccine was created based on the premise that the human papilloma virus is responsible for some cervical cancers. It is also touted as an effective way to prevent infection by HPV in the first place. However, fully 70% of HPV infections resolve themselves without ANY treatment in the first year. That number climbs to 90% after two years. As a good friend of mine says, there is nothing stronger than a human’s own immune system. So, of the 10% of HPV infections that persist after two years, less than half of them are present in cancer of the cervix.
- There are 104 different strains of HPV. Some studies say that four of them are correlated with cervical cancer, others say three. The Gardasil vaccine is designed to guard against two of those strains. It seems unlikely that the rate of prevention of cervical cancer is high enough in those two instances to warrant vaccinating everyone over the age of 9.
- Pap smears are responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancer diagnoses in the world and cervical cancer is one of the least fatal cancers around, considering it’s ease of treatment. In addition, HPV is not considered to be the sole cause of cervical cancer and it is unknown whether it works in concert with other factors.
- The current death rate in the United States from cervical cancer is between 1.5 and 4 per 100,000. A physician who works for Merck (the company that created Gardasil) admitted that the rate of reported side effects from the vaccine is higher than the rate of cervical cancer. Please keep in mind that for a side effect to be considered “adverse” it has to result in significant illness or disability or death, generally after an ER visit. So those kinds of effects are MORE LIKELY to occur than the CANCER ITSELF.
- As if that isn’t enough, here’s another shocker: rates of adverse vaccine effects are based on a ratio of the number of reported adverse effects to the number of vaccines distributed from the manufacturer. Wait for it…that means that they are completely disregarding the number of vaccinations that are actually given. There are vast numbers of vaccines that are thrown out every day in this country thanks to expiration dates or power failures or damaged packaging. That means that the ratio of REPORTED adverse effects is actually much higher than reported by the drug companies because they are not counting those vaccines that are discarded. Even higher than that, because according to the American Journal of Public Health (and some common sense thinking), the vast majority of adverse effects are never even reported.
And speaking of ‘adverse effects,’ the YouTube video embedded here *(for some reason, the link doesn’t show up in the post, despite showing up in my HTML version, so here is the URL in case you’re interested) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoWUSuGCo-I details the lack of interest by Merck or regulating bodies in the effects Gardasil may be having on fertility rates in girls. There have been many reported incidences of girls receiving this vaccine and going into menopause. Yes, you read that correctly, their ovaries stop working. And because this vaccine is being pushed to girls as young as 9 in the US, we don’t even have information on their menstrual periods because most of them haven’t started yet, and they may never reach menarche because of this vaccine.
I could go on, but I suspect your eyes are glazing over right about now. There are two reports here and here that cite scientific studies and explain a great deal of what I find frightening about Gardasil. One caveat: I do not necessarily agree with all of the rhetoric accompanying the facts in these two sources. One is adamantly ‘pro-life’ and goes at it from the viewpoint of the sanctity of life and abstinence teachings and the other one is very adamantly anti-vaccine. That said, both back up their arguments with solid, scientific fact and easily reproducible information. If you have an extra 48 minutes and feel the need to investigate for yourself, I recommend the video as the doctor who presents it did a great deal of research and is very careful to show her process throughout. I have no reason to believe that she is anything but concerned about the safety of this vaccine. I know I am.