Saturday, February 03, 2007

Perry on HPV Vaccination: Progressivism or Pandering?

On executive order, Governor Rick Perry made Texas the first state, the first governing entity, to require that girls entering 6th grade be vaccinated for Human Papilloma Virus or HPV.

Isn’t that just about the last thing you would have expected to come out of this Texas governor? Vaccination to prevent cervical cancer before a girl becomes sexually active is such a good idea it doesn’t really need debate. My great-grandmother died of cervical cancer 30 years before I was born. She died at a relatively young 55 years of age.

It’s such a good idea that it is being considered in the US Senate (SB 54) and in several other state houses besides Texas, including New Jersey, California, Georgia, and Kentucky. Now that Perry made this an executive order, the Texas state house bill, HB 146 submitted by Joe Deshotel of HD 22, is now unnecessary. Deshotel commented that he didn’t think it would have ever made it to the floor, so he was pleased at this outcome.

But this is Texas and we need to debate this anyway. FortBendNow is reporting that State Representative Charlie Howard is going to put up a fuss about this. It seems Rep. Howard thinks that vaccinating young girls will send a signal to them that it’s OK to have sex now.

Funny. That isn’t what he wrote in his letter to Perry. He made mention of how costly the vaccine was, how being vaccinated could lead to a false sense of security because it only vaccinates against one of four strains of the virus, how it is relatively new and does not have any long-term studies on its effects, and finally, how Perry usurped the authority of the legislature by making it an executive order.

But then, I guess you don’t put in writing the fact that you think 12 year old girls will all be wanting sex now that they’re vaccinated against HPV.

If that is the real issue.

Think about it. Who in their right mind (besides a few Neocon Nutjobs) believes that this is a signal to 12-year old girls that it’s OK for them to have sex now? Parents, if you don’t want your 12-year old daughters to have sex just yet, RAISE THEM with values and morals. A little guilt thrown in is always something for good measure. That should do it.

No that isn’t the issue, is it? It’s about Merck, isn’t it? It’s about a campaign contribution (and more to come). It’s about how Merck’s Texas lobbyist is Mike Toomey, Rick Perry’s former chief of staff. It’s about the huge windfall to Merck when it sells its pricey vaccine, Gardasil, three doses for a full course, at 120 dollars a pop, to the parents of every 12 year old girl in Texas.

It’s about what it’s always about.


Anonymous said...


Comment on this article if you can. A very serious issue:

stickdog said...

The Facts About GARDASIL

1) GARDASIL is a vaccine for 4 strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), two strains that are strongly associated (and probably cause) genital warts and two strains that are typically associated (and may cause) cervical cancer. About 90% of people with genital warts show exposure to one of the two HPV strains strongly suspected to cause genital warts. About 70% of women with cervical cancer show exposure to one of the other two HPV strains that the vaccine is designed to confer resistance to.

2) HPV is a sexually communicable (not an infectious) virus. When you consider all strains of HPV, over 70% of sexually active males and females have been exposed. A condom helps a lot (70% less likely to get it), but has not been shown to stop transmission in all cases (only one study of 82 college girls who self-reported about condom use has been done). For the vast majority of women, exposure to HPV strains (even the four “bad ones” protected for in GARDASIL) results in no known health complications of any kind.

3) Cervical cancer is not a deadly nor prevalent cancer in the US or any other first world nation. Cervical cancer rates have declined sharply over the last 30 years and are still declining. Cervical cancer accounts for less than 1% of of all female cancer cases and deaths in the US. Cervical cancer is typically very treatable and the prognosis for a healthy outcome is good. The typical exceptions to this case are old women, women who are already unhealthy and women who don’t get pap smears until after the cancer has existed for many years.

4) Merck’s clinical studies for GARDASIL were problematic in several ways. Only 20,541 women were used (half got the “placebo”) and their health was followed up for only four years at maximum and typically 1-3 years only. More critically, only 1,121 of these subjects were less than 16. The younger subjects were only followed up for a maximum of 18 months. Furthermore, less than 10% of these subjects received true placebo injections. The others were given injections containing an aluminum salt adjuvant (vaccine enhancer) that is also a component of GARDASIL. This is scientifically preposterous, especially when you consider that similar alum adjuvants are suspected to be responsible for Gulf War disease and other possible vaccination related complications.

5) Both the “placebo” groups and the vaccination groups reported a myriad of short term and medium term health problems over the course of their evaluations. The majority of both groups reported minor health complications near the injection site or near the time of the injection. Among the vaccination group, reports of such complications were slightly higher. The small sample that was given a real placebo reported far fewer complications — as in less than half. Furthermore, most if not all longer term complications were written off as not being potentially vaccine caused for all subjects.

6) Because the pool of test subjects was so small and the rates of cervical cancer are so low, NOT A SINGLE CONTROL SUBJECT ACTUALLY CONTRACTED CERVICAL CANCER IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM — MUCH LESS DIED OF IT. Instead, this vaccine’s supposed efficacy is based on the fact that the vaccinated group ended up with far fewer cases (5 vs. about 200) of genital warts and “precancerous lesions” (dysplasias) than the alum injected “control” subjects.

7) Because the tests included just four years of follow up at most, the long term effects and efficacy of this vaccine are completely unknown for anyone. All but the shortest term effects are completely unknown for little girls. Considering the tiny size of youngster study, the data about the shortest terms side effects for girls are also dubious.

8) GARDASIL is the most expensive vaccine ever marketed. It requires three vaccinations at $120 a pop for a total price tag of $360. It is expected to be Merck’s biggest cash cow of this and the next decade.

These are simply the facts of the situation as presented by Merck and the FDA.

Hal said...

Cervical cancer is not deadly, Stick? Tell that to my great grandmother and all of the women I know who have had hysterectomies.

Are you saying that because it is expensive it should not be bought and used?

What's the REAL reason you are against vaccinating our future women against cancer?

A Charlie Howard reason, maybe?

stickdog said...

There is no clinic evidence whatsoever that tis vaccine will reduce rates of cervical cancer. Like I said, cervical cancer accounts for less than 1% of of all female cancer cases and deaths in the US. Cervical cancer is typically very treatable and the prognosis for a healthy outcome is good. The typical exceptions to this case are old women, women who are already unhealthy and women who don’t get pap smears until after the cancer has existed for many years. Do you have any problems with the facts?

There are two sides to every discussion, of course. This vaccine does appear to confer some benefits. If I were a sexually active woman who disliked condoms and liked to have multiple sex partners who had not yet been exposed to any of the four strains of HPV that this vaccine protects against, I just might sign myself up.

But that’s not the same thing as making this vaccine MANDATORY for a preteen population it was not rigorously tested on a scant 8 months after its initial rush job FDA approval.

Aside from all the known risks of all vaccines, the unknown risks of this three shot regimen for preteens along with their other vaccine load, and the unknown long term risks of this vaccine for all populations, we have to look at cost vs. benefit.

7861 of the placebo subjects contracted 83 cases of HPV 6-, 11-, 16-, 18-related dysplasias during the testing period compared compared to 4 cases among the 7858 subjects who were given GARDASIL. That’s after counting out every subject with any prior exposure to these strains. This includes 42 of the less serious HPV 6-, 11- related low grade dysplasias.

Merck has published no data for how many non-HPV 6-, 11-, 16-, 18-related dysplasias were contracted by these subjects over these periods, but some practitioners have commented that they expect the vaccine to protect against 40%-50% of all dysplasias.

In terms of every possible kind of dysplasia for which this vaccine confers protection, Merck’s own clinical evidence suggests that this vaccine saved about 10 patients out of each 1000 injected from the painful process of having these dysplasias treated (over the entire course of follow ups which ranged from 18 months to 4 years). Note that the populations for these studies were not preteens but women at the height of their sexual activity. Further note that since the vaccine uses virus-like particles (a new vaccine technology) and is only about five years in testing now, there is no guarantee that it has any long term efficacy.

Of course, the pre-teen population is so less sexually active (and when active, so much less likely to be active with a previously contaminated partner) that I think it would be conservative to estimate that preteens are 5 times less likely to contract HPV dysplasias than the 16 to 26 year olds who were tested by Merck. So instead of saving 10 women per 1000 from painful treatments for HPV dysplasias, this vaccine would save perhaps 2 girls per 1000 from these procedures among the much younger population that Merck and Merck’s politicians are targeting for mandatory vaccination.

Do we really want to pursue a public policy that costs $360,000 to vaccinate every 1000 girls while exposing each and every one of these thousand girls to the known adverse short term and largely unknown long terms side effects of three injections of a new vaccine just to save two of the more sexually active of these kids from having to have their dysplasias treated conventionally? What kind of a risk and cost vs. benefit trade off is that?

Note that nowhere are we discussing actual incidences of cervical cancer because there is no clinical evidence whatsoever that GARDASIL reduces cervical cancer rates, and even if we place our hope in the the fact that it might, cervical cancer is simply not a meaningful health risk for any girl in the target vaccination population who is getting an annual pap smear.

Elmo said...

Unlike the infectious diseases (polio, pertussis, measles, etc.) which are public health issues, HPV is a personal health issue and it's not something that any state or federal government should be meddling with.

If Governor Perry thinks that these vaccinations area a good idea, he needs to work on making them available and affordable. Of course if he were to do that he would have to stand up to the insurance lobby, the drug lobby, and half the other monied interests in the USA which would take guts not good hair.

Hal said...

Stickdog, you've had your two rants on this blog. That's enough and there won't be a third.

You've made your point and now you are repeating yourself.

Go somewhere else, now.

paalleno said...

There are 100 strains of HPV. This vaccine only protects against 4 of them. This is NOT about protecting women.

And if Merck can engineer AIDS prevention drugs for 6th graders to give them a mega-boost to their
immune system, Perry will be able to happily DOUBLE Merck's customers because they will then be able to get the boys into it too. So why target girls? Why not monkey with boys? That would stop this STD too. How about Rick make a law that all 6th grade boys must wear a condom at all times unless they are urinating? If Trojan had Merck's financing then that invasive scenario would be happening instead, guaranteed.

Do you know that after this windfall, Merck has renewed optimism in pursuing other state governors? By federal law, Merck's #1 goal is to make profit for their shareholders. Don't ever forget that. This is disgusting and reaching and self-serving. Anything man made is imperfect. Period. Remember all of the bad vaccine batches and yearly drug recalls? So, everyone ready for a few generations of sterile young women? I see it coming. By the time this Merck 'vaccine' gets recalled we will have several generations of sterile women. "I'm sorry you can't have children sweetie, I let the state take over your personal medical and sexual guidance."

Remember the contraceptive 'patch'? The commercials showed 'the patch' on a woman's hip as she gets out of the swimming pool, etc. Turns out it boosts estrogen by 300% which produces excessive blod clots = strokes/heart attacks. 23 women have died from it. Oopsy. The top executives did get some serious bonuses though because the profit reports on it were phenomenal. Maybe something like $1 billion per dead woman.

Don't just lay down for this. There is an opt-out clause in the new law which allows a parent to
decline the 'vaccine' based on their own personal philosophical beliefs or religious beliefs. My
philosophical belief is that the state doesn't need to get all 6th grade girls ready for STD free sex.

Anonymous said...

I would like to make it clear that HPV can be spread even with the use of condoms. There seems to be a misconception that only promiscuous women get HPV, when it really targets the population as a whole.
"If I were a sexually active woman who disliked condoms and liked to have multiple sex partners who had not yet been exposed to any of the four strains of HPV that this vaccine protects against, I just might sign myself up."

I work in the public health system and many of the exposed have used condoms consistently and have not had an abundance of sexual partners. It seems to me you took the facts that you liked off of some webpages and distorted them into what you wanted them to say.

Hal said...

Hey, Anon, whoa there partner.

I didn't mention anything about condoms in my posting. Take it up with stickdog and paaleno who say they have done their homework on the subject.

So editorial comment: the "you" in Anon's comment does not refer to me who has no fixed opinion on the use of condoms. Fingers point elsewhere in the comments.