This was something I had originally written for the Stark Raving Dads blog. Unfortunately, Mr. Lady and BusyDad have been, um, busy. They never found another Dad to also answer. I had fun writing and researching the topic and didn't really want to see it languishing in the bottom of my gmail any more.
Without further adieu - (as submitted to Mr. Lady)
Here's the email I received:
From: Mr. Lady
HPV vaccine. For or against?
To: Mr. LadyI remember thinking to myself. "Lord I hope this is about the human papillomavirus. I've heard of this one. Otherwise I'm totally busted as a bad dad for having no idea what she's talking about. I was quite impressed with our complete lack of filler words, like verbs.
From: Mr. LadyLook! It's a verb! I'm still hoping this conversation is about the vaccine I've heard of.
Maybe do you want to field a question on SRD dads about it?
I asked her for the actual text of the question for SRD's, This could be a way for me to get the details of the question without giving away the fact that there are about three vaccines that I will recognize from their abbreviations. Besides, I'd love to share my thoughts, I'll share my thoughts with anyone at any time whether they want to hear them or not.
From: Mr. LadyThat sounds like the HPV I've heard of. It's had the lion's share of controversy. If it's a problem with controversy in the US, it's probably got something to with sex. Nobody does sex controversy like we Americans.
Yep, the whole question is "there's a lot of controversy about it. What are your thoughts?" In Canada, ever girl gets it in 6th grade. It's not an issue at all. The issue, I've found, is predominately American.
I think I know why she's asking me too! BusyDad doesn't have to deal with this, Fury doesn't have a cervix. They are looking for a dad with daughters not in those crazy mixed up teenage years...but a dad staring down the barrel of a needle in a couple of years and guess what, that's me. Our oldest daughter is 9. Oh, and I live U.S., I'm north of Toronto in a state commonly confused with Canada, but technically, we are Americans.
Something Mr. Lady may not have known is my wife, OhCountess, is a registered nurse currently in grad school working on a masters degree in nursing eduction (have you thanked a nurse today?). Which is great, cause she can help me answer this, except for the fact that she's in grad school and barely has the free time to breath.
In her typical busy fashion, she showed me a paper she wrote on this subject (how handy is that!). It's a place to start. Here are facts about HPV (taken from US Center for Disease Control):
- Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- Genital warts. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any one time.
- Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million people become newly infected each year. (There are roughly 200 million people in the US)
- The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008, 11,070 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S.
- According to the U.S. Cancer Statistics: 2004 Incidence and Mortality report, 11,892 women in the U.S. were told that they had cervical cancer in 2004,* and 3,850 women died from the disease. It is estimated that more than $2 billion† is spent on the treatment of cervical cancer per year in the U.S. (32% fatality rate)
- Freaked out conspiracy crackpots.
- Religious anti-sex people who want no one having sex.
- Parents that fear for the safety of their child.
Group 2. This is where we Americans really shine. America has a long tradition of believing that sex is the root of all evil. Now, I'm not going to be the one that's actively encouraging my daughters to have sex, they know that they aren't even allowed to look at boys until they've finished their 2nd PhD or turn 35, which ever comes later (boys are evil, I was one, I know). The argument about not vaccinating women is about control. If you prevent a woman from contracting this nasty disease, you've taken away one more reason why she should not have sex. If a woman doesn't fear cervical cancer, they are going to be having all kinds of steamy, nasty Spice channel sex every where.
I call bull shit. I just can never understand why you'd chose death over sex. You need to teach your kids valid reasons that they understand for not having sex early. Scaring kids doesn't work. Hell, I knew better then to ski straight down a black diamond trail because I could die. Um, maybe. But DAMN! That was fun. Kids try to cheat death. Deal with it.
Group 3. These are people whose hearts are in the right place. They are just worried that the risks associated with the vaccine are too great.
There is more then one blog in my blog empire. I have a daddy blog but I also have a poker blog. I love poker. Some of you may think of poker as just another casino tax on the statistically impaired, like the slot machines. Poker is actually a fantastic game that teaches you the skills of risk management and statistics. Poker winnings and losings are all about making good decisions. Over time, the person that makes the most correct decisions, wins.
So, how does this relate to HPV? Like many vaccines on the market today, there are risks. These risks range from tenderness around the injection site to possible death. I, for one, am not in favor of killing my children. They have their bad days, and despite what I might say, I love my kids more then life itself and want to make sure they way out live me.
According to the CDC, 6% of the approximate 10,000 adverse reaction that have been reported about Gardasil (the brand name for the vaccine) have been considered severe. Now, not all of these reports have been validated. So if we do the math, there have been about 20,000,000 doses delivered, that's 3 doses per person, for roughly 6.7 million people. So of those 6.7 million girls that got the vaccine,0.15% have reported a serious adverse reaction. That's in tenths of a percent.
Probably the most widely publicized side effect is the belief that this vaccine will trigger the onset of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). The likelihood that someone has the predisposition of this disease is 1-2 people out of 100,000. So if we look at those numbers, 200 of the people treated have a predisposition to this disease, not everyone of those people will actually have the disease triggered.
So, by refusing the vaccine, you believe that the 50% chance of contracting HPV is not nearly as significant as the .0001% chance of contracting GBS. In poker terms, you are making a bad bet. You are 5,000,000 times more likely to catch HPV then to get GBS. I just don't understand this thinking.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Are we really treating our kids for a sexually transmitted disease? Well, yes. But when we vaccinate our kids for chicken pox or polio, we usually don't sit down with them explain how those diseases work or how you get them. In Canada, this is a required vaccine. Had the whole topic of how HPV spreads not been highlighted, no one would have really cared. It prevents one of the leading causes of death in women.
Personally, I say get your head out of your ass. I love my daughters. I hope that they never know what it's like to have cancer. This is just one step in that direction.