Amaya Rain

Wife. Mother. Crazy woman.

HPV and all that jazz.

A post on BlogHer has forced me to write about something I meant to write about when I first opened this blog: the new HPV vaccine, and vaccines in general.

My oldest is vaccinated, all up to date, all that jazz. However, because of let’s just say issues with their administration when she was on schedule, we ended up delaying most of them until she was nearly school age. The only thing I’d have done differently with her, when it comes down to it, would be to have not started them initially when she was so young, and to work on finding out if we could have gotten them separately, instead of 5 diseases in one whabang.

The babies are not vaccinated at all. One of them was rather ill after birth, and then there have been some developmental difficulties. Actually, all of that just gave me a reason to have everyone else get off of my ass about getting them vaccinated. My daughter handled the shots so much better as an older child than she did as a younger one, and since the twins aren’t exposed to other kids or even the general public that often, I was comfortable taking “the risk.”

Then there’s my own history. I’ve had all the major childhood diseases (except chicken pox, which I wasn’t vaccinated for. Go figure); I’ve had severe medical reactions to the tetnus booster; I have no immunity toward diseases I’ve received vaccinations for (to the point where I really should have stayed home and twiddled by thumbs and not gone anywhere near the general public when I was pregnant because I don’t have rubella immunity).

There’s just so much misinformation on both sides of the issue – and that’s with “proven” vaccines with track records. A 3 month old baby died of SIDS in our neighborhood recently… just a few days after her vaccinations. One of the neighborhood kids is autistic, with his mother maintaining that he had no symptoms prior to a vaccination, and then was a completely different child within a week. A friend’s kid got shingles after getting the chickenpox vaccine. All of that is second-hand experience, yes. But I’ve known many people, myself included, to get measles, mumps, chickenpox, whooping cough, pneumonia, flu, meningitis – and have no long term effects from any of them. I’m not saying these things don’t cause long term effects in some people, I’m just saying that in my personal experience, I’ve seen long-term, and even fatal, effects from vaccinations whereas I’ve seen none from the diseases they are supposed to prevent (notice, there wasn’t much prevention, was there?)

So now there is this wonder drug, something that prevents – at a 100% rate, no less – the 2 types of HPV that cause up to 70% of cervical cancers, and the 90% of the 2 types of HPV that cause genital warts. Wow. I mean, really, wow. That’s a much better success rate than most other vaccines. And it’s for women!!! (I felt the need to yell that because the medical research community isn’t always too keen on working on women’s issues). I wanted to jump for joy when I heard that!

Then reality kinda settled in.

I’d wondered why we’d suddenly been bombarded with television ads with incredulous-faced women saying “did you know that this cancer is caused by a virus? A virus! Who knew! Pass it on! Everyone needs to know!!” I thought it was great that there were finally PSA’s about something that my OB had told me years ago. It’s one of those strange things – they always told us “STD’s can cause this, that, death and cancer.” But the never told us how prevalent HPV was. Tons of ads every day for herpes and HIV, but never any for the number one cause of cervical cancer in women – which if I’m not mistaken, is the number one cause of hysterectomies in the country.

I should have known. Maybe I should have read the fine print on the bottom of the screen that probably says “paid for by Merck”.

Because the only time we focus on womens’ health issues is when there is money involved. And that really pisses me off. Where was all the screaming and crying out for women to be educated when it was a health threat, and not a money-maker? Why haven’t we been telling women to “tell someone you love” for years now?

Because back then, we couldn’t make $360 off of you.

And if the government makes the shots mandatory for girls, then the government will be paying that $360. Of course, one day we’ll get nice and let overseas companies make generics for it, bringing the cost for third-world countries down to like $3 a pop while still gouging our own government, but that’s okay, because we’re saving lives.

I’m not knocking the efficacy of the drug. I’m not knocking its possible necessity. I’m knocking the money-making theories. I’m knocking the lack of long-term studies on effects on fertility and overall health (including cancer). I’m knocking the marketing strategies. I’m knocking the lack of ability of both the government and private health officials to emphasize to young women the serious necessity of safer sex and abstinence (ooooh! I said the “A” word!) despite the possiblity of a vaccine.

I realize according to the current laws, the drug cannot be offered at public-funded health clinics for reduced cost unless it’s made mandatory. And think, ultimately, this is a huge problem. Parents, and young women of health-determining age, should be able to have access to the vaccine no matter what the cost, without it being made mandatory. Yes, most states have exemptions available, but most only have religious exemptions – not everyone has religious issues with this vaccine. Some states have philisophical exemptions, which is great. But not all.

Ultimately, parents have the right to determine what is best for their children. For my children, it’s for me to wait and see what longer-term effects this vaccine will have. I could never forgive myself for giving a vaccine – or a government for making it mandatory – if that vaccine caused a long-term health issue for my child. Along with that right comes my responsiblity to inform my children about sex, about safer sex, and about the importance of abstinence (and the fact that some diseases, such as herpes and HPV, can be transmitted without actual intercourse or oral sex). It is my responsbility to tell my children that sex is a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing, a glorious thing (I guess I’ll leave out the hot and sweaty and sometimes beautifully violent and mind-bending and… oh, I digress), but that along with that, these days, comes the possiblity of it getting you killed.

I hate issues like this. They leave me so torn, so battered as a parent. Do I do what’s right for my children, or do I do what’s right for my children? Do I take a calculated risk with their health, or do I take a calculated risk with their health? Because those are the questions, pro and con, for both sides of the issue.

For me, it’s too late. I’m over the age cutoff… don’t even get me started about that, since the drug companies are implying that women over the cutoff age are more likely to already have HPV… and it only takes ONE exposure, ONE time… ugh. Not going there.

So yeah, that’s my take. I’m a confused mommy, and a confused mommy makes a wait-and-see mommy.

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July 8, 2006 Posted by | Parenting, Politics, Vaccinations | Leave a comment