Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vaccinating your daughter

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:
To: OhCaptain
From: Mr. Lady

HPV vaccine. For or against?
To: Mr. Lady
From: OhCaptain

I 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. Lady
To: OhCaptain

Maybe do you want to field a question on SRD dads about it?
Look! It's a verb! I'm still hoping this conversation is about the vaccine I've heard of.

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. Lady
To: OhCaptain

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.
That 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.

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)
So why wouldn't you want to immunize your daughter against this absolutely horrible virus? I did a little research and found 3 groups of people who refuse to vaccinate their daughters:
  1. Freaked out conspiracy crackpots.
  2. Religious anti-sex people who want no one having sex.
  3. Parents that fear for the safety of their child.
Now, for the sake of brevity, let's just assume that no matter what the issue, Group 1 will exist. Conspiracy crackpots are every where. No use really wasting our breath on them.

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.


Melisa with one S said...

FABULOUS post. You made great points. I totally agree with you and, if I had daughters, I'd be vaccinating them.


Tom said...

As a religious crackpot nut, I have to agree with those who believe that this vaccine is a must have.

Our daughters are all vaccinated, but have also been taught restraint; I'm not worried about them thinking the vaccine gives them license to go wild.

WeaselMomma said...

You forgot about group #4. That's me and quite a few others. I don't necessarily have anything against the vaccine, but being that it is not a disease that can be transferred other than through sex(you are not going to pick up the germ in the classroom) it should be a decision made by the parents whether or not to get the vaccine. Not a decision mandated by law in order for my child to attend school. I agree with being open an honest with your children about why they shouldn't be having sex as teens. I just don't want the government to mandate something that does not pose a health risk in a public setting.

Kat said...

I am with WeaselMomma. I will probably have my kids vaccinated, but I don't want the government telling me to do so.

The Microblogologist said...

Very well done! If you guessed I am a huge advocate of vaccinations you are very much correct. While I am generally against the government interfering in people's lives this is one of the issues I believe they need to step in and mandate this vaccine. I also believe they need to test it on males, disease vectors that they are (they also have cooties). Only half the problem is solved by vaccinating females, if we are going to eradicate the four strains this vaccine is against we have to inoculate both genders (there are many strains of HPV, they chose the strains most associated with cancer and warts).

The nutjobs (religious or otherwise) totally piss me off with their anti-vaccination BS. Most kids (and many adults) have no clue what all they are getting vaccinated against. To suggest that getting their daughter vaccinated will be like saying she can/should have sex or makes her more likely to do so without fear of HPV holding her back is completely insane. Have they forgotten that there are other STI's, pretty much all of them potentially more scary to a young person. If they do their job as parents teaching their kids about sex and what all is involved they shouldn't have to worry about it. And what if their virgin daughter marries someone who has it...

Either way too much emphasis is put on the fact that HPV is an STI. I think the fact that it is a public health issue should be stressed over how it is spread.

surprised mom said...

Very informative post. It gives one a lot of things to think over. While I agree I don't like the government telling me what vaccinations I should give my children, their safety comes first. Everytime they've gotten a vaccination, I quizzed the doctor until he answered all my questions to my satisfaction.

I have two daughter, and no matter what I wish, they will not be living their lives in a convent. Sex will be part of their lives, so this vaccine makes sense. We have discussed sex many times and the need to be safe and protected. One has decided to wait until marriage. The other hasn't told me what she thinks. She's only 15 and hasn't start to date yet.

Did I say sex will be part of their lives? Dear God. By the way, you are a stricter parent than I am. I told the girls no sex until they are 30 and complete their college education and live on their own and pay for their own lives.

Thanks again for this post.

Astin said...

Well, other than the fact vaccines cause autism in your 30's and also contain government tracking chips that will read all your banking information so the man can take your money to bail out the banks, I'm all for vaccination.

Joking aside, I have no kids, but you can be damned sure that when/if I do, they'll be vaccinated up the wazoo (that's where they stick the needles, right?). If the government didn't mandate this, then the actual rate of vaccination would be pathetic, because people are LAZY and easily scared.

And sorry WeaselMomma, but you sound like #2, not #4. Here's a newsflash to all parents everywhere - your kids will have sex. They will have sex with multiple partners. Sometimes, they won't bother with protection. Yah, I know, you have an agreement that they'll tell you - they won't. So, as a parent, if you decide that your child doesn't get the vaccine, then you now put not only your daughter, but other daughters at risk. Because other parents will think the same thing, and their daughter will have sex with the guy your daughter had sex with, and he had sex with someone else's daugther who has HPV.

Just because you can't get it from being sneezed on doesn't mean it won't spread. The government's role is the protection of the populace, which means they're not doing this just for your daughter, but everyone's daughter.

Word verification? Barimom... weird.

Colleen said...

Great post! When I first heard about this vaccine, I was ecstatic. When I was 20 years old, I had an abnormal PAP, and turned out I had pre-cancerous lesions in my cervix. I had had only 1 sexual partner, and to the best of my knowledge at the time, I was his only partner (we'd been dating since high school). I had the cryosurgery to freeze those pre-cancerous (and the surrounding healthy) cells. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, but for a 20-yr old, it was pretty scary, when they told me that if that procedure didn't work, they'd have to do more invasive surgery which would compromise my chances for carrying a pregnancy to term. The doctor also mentioned that I had a history of plantars warts on my feet, which are also caused by HPV...she stated that the pre-cancerous cells could've been picked up by my boyfriend or could've been existing in my body from when I developed the plantars warts...they just didn't know enough about HPV to know for sure.
I have two boys, and if they every create the vaccine for boys (or approve it), I would get them vaccinated so that if they pick it up somewhere, they're less likely to pass it along to someone else. If I ever have a girl, she's getting it too. I would never want her (or any other girl) to have to worry about whether they can carry a baby, or worse, worry about dying from cancer.