Oh, those crazy politicians. First, they comment on medicine and when confronted about their remarks, they excuse themselves by saying they’re not doctors.
That’s what Michele Bachmann did when she referred to the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer as “dangerous.” I suppose she knows better than the FDA, who approved the vaccine as safe.
Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer in women and anal cancer in both men and women. Indicated for adolescents and young adults, the vaccine initially had a slow start. Some parents feared the vaccine condoned having sex at an early age. The vaccine is recommended beginning at age 11 or 12. I seriously doubt a child would rationalize that a vaccine was their parents’ way of giving them the greenlight to have intercourse. Besides, 17 seems to be the magic number where most individuals engage in first intercourse. Of course, if you have a mother like the one Sissy Spacek had in Carrie, then I would agree that this vaccine was made by the devil to entice young children into acting on their lustful urges. Then again, if you have a mother like the one played by Piper Laurie or one like Michele Bachmann, who is married to someone who thinks you can cure homosexuality with therapy, then you probably shouldn’t get the vaccine because you’ll spend the rest of your life worrying that you’ll burn in hell for it.
Aside from all the guilt brought on by the religious right, the fact is that the rates of sexually transmitted diseases increase every year. HPV is extremely common with millions of new infections each year. That’s because any kind of intimate contact can transmit the virus. For some, the immune system fights off the infection. Unfortunately, for others, the virus persists and can lead to cancer. Gardasil was initially indicated to prevent cervical cancer, but it has been show that HPV causes cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, and even the throat.
Among gay men with HIV, anal cancer rates have increased. At a recent HIV conference, it was recommended that all HIV positive men undergo annual anal Pap smears followed by high resolution anoscopy for Paps confirming HPV. I routinely recommend Gardasil for my HIV positive male patients even though it is not covered by insurance.
Vaccines have been given a bum rap over the years with unproven ties to autism. Each year vaccine rates decline. The public’s growing concerns with vaccines ignore the statistical proof that they prevents certain diseases and death. It’s interesting to think a patient would refuse a flu vaccine despite the fact that thousands die from the flu each year.
The repercussions of Bachmann’s comment will linger in the minds of skeptical patients and parents when their doctors recommend vaccines for them and their children. It’s unfortunate when someone like Bachmann, who said she wasn’t a doctor, offered her medical opinion on a matter she obvious knows little about. Perhaps she had a mother like Carrie.