Bachmann’s Vaccine Debacle

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.



  1. edfu
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Since Gardasil does nothing for those already infected with the four types of HPV it protects against,

    and since the approx. 100 types of HPV are so universal and the #1 STD in the U.S.,

    and since studies have shown that one becomes infected with HPV almost immediately upon the initiation of sexual activity and that the rate of HPV infection among gay men is as high as 90-100%,

    and since there is no commercially available test to show HPV infection in men,

    what purpose is served in treating all gay men with the vaccine?

    Is it just in the unproven assumption that some of them–perhaps a minority– might not already be infected with the four HPV types?

    It’s a question I’ve been unable to find an answer to.

    Many thanks for all you do.

  2. spinellimd
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I routinely perform anal Pap smears on my gay male patients, particularly if they are HIV positive, have a history of anal condyloma or practice receptive anal sex. The HPV by PCR results may indicate that the patient’s specimen contains Human Papillomavirus DNA from one or both Types included in the group (6,11) as determined by the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Amplification method. This assay system is able to successfully Amplify and Detect Viral DNA from HPV Types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 42, 43, 45, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, and several unclassified HPV Types.

    I do not write prescriptions for Gardasil for all my gay male patients. That is something that is considered on an individual basis.

    I hope this helps.

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