Sex, money, politicians, big business, schools, the religious right, science, a government agency, virgins, morality, the poor,and drugs (or more appropriately a vaccine) are all players in the battle over something called Gardasil. Arguably one of most revolutionary advances in medicine, Gardasil is the first vaccine to prevent cancer. More specifically, it protects against particular strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of sexually transmitted infection which causes cervical cancer.
Since its approval last year by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Merck, the pharmaceutical company that developed Gardasil, has launched one of the most coordinated marketing campaigns by a drug company. Beyond the “Tell Someone” commercials to educate the public, they have been lobbying state legislators to promotevaccinationas a public health initiative. Currently, Illinois and33 other states are considering legislation which would promote awareness about the vaccine. A few states, most notably Texas, are considering compulsory vaccination for girls as young as nine years old in order to attend school.
While most have hailed this major advance in medicine, it is drawing a growing number of critics. Merck’s immediate and widespread campaign to make the vaccine mandatory and the FDA’s fast-tracked approval process have a segment of public health advocates questioning the certainty of the research. Additionally, many have concerns because no one knows the long term effects of the drug yet.Are these simply scare tactics? Why shouldn’t we trust the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, and our elected officials with the health and welfare of the public?
Beyond questioning the research and safety of the vaccine a growing number of groups have strong objections to the idea of making the vaccination mandatory for girls. Knowing that HPV is only transmitted through sexual contact, is there sufficient public health justification to make it mandatory for school attendance? Should it be mandatory when there are preventative behavior interventions such as regular pap smears? Does a mandate infringe on the rights of parents to make decisions in their children’s best interest? Would the vaccine cause increased, unprotected sexual behavior among teens?
Join us this week at Café Society to explore the potential medical and cultural impacts of the HPV vaccine.
This Week’s Articles:
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.