I have a fundamental issue with the recent spate of news about vaccines. Specifically, some nonsense about the HPV vaccination was tossed around at the recent Tea Party CNN debate.
First, some facts. The CDC estimates that 35,000,000 doses of the HPV vaccine, mostly Gardasil, have been given. To date, they indicate that 9,476 reports have been made regarding adverse effects occurring immediately after receiving the vaccine. This is reported through their Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS. After investigation, 6% of those reported adverse events were listed as ‘serious’. Of the ‘serious’ events, 20 involved death. The rest are related to Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder that causes muscle weakness, and complications resulting from blood clots. In both cases, there is currently no evidence indicating that Gardasil is causing an increase of occurrence of these issues outside of population norms.
This is all from the CDC site, which is linked above. Now, in real numbers. Out of 35,000,000 doses, 20 deaths have been reported as adverse effects. That reflects .00006% of the dosed population. ‘Serious’ adverse effects have been reported in .00108% of the dosed population. ‘Serious’ and ‘Non Serious’ adverse effects have been reported in .02707% of the dosed population.
After the debate, Michele Bachmann claimed that a family reported the vaccine led to mental retardation in her daughters. Shortly after, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement that there is zero evidence to support this anecdotal claim.
Today, Jon Huntsman, of recent fame for professing his belief in man made global warming whilst running for the Republican nomination for President, said: “If you’re going to run for president of the United States, people are pretty much going to want to rely on your facts. They are going to rely on what you’re presenting. You darn well better make sure it’s consistent with reality.”
And, that’s notable in the sense that one can make news by stating, essentially, you know. Make your policy and political statements as an aspirational leader of the United States within the bounds of the scientific community and evidence. Shorter, remember that facts means facts not anecdotes.
But, he went on to say: “Mandates do not have a role predominantly in these kinds of issues, whether it’s health care reform or whether it’s what we are discussing here… American people are very skeptical of mandates in society. They want freedom. They want the freedom to choose these things.”
This is where I have a problem. Vaccines are currently mandated to attend schools. However, one only needs to indicate a philosophical difference with science to escape the mandate. That’s it. But, the mandate makes things like vaccines easier to get coverage for with your health insurance. A vaccine is not an elective procedure, therefore it is not treated like one. And, I suppose that’s the fine line that Huntsman has to walk between policy and politics. So many Americans are apparently about the freedom to choose lifesaving procedures. And, that would be fine if that also didn’t effect the fundamental nature of what makes vaccines successful: herd immunity. If too many people don’t receive vaccinations, it necessarily erodes the effectiveness of vaccines in those that did. And that is where your freedom of choice impacts my family’s freedom to not be subject to dangerous illnesses like measles or mumps.
But, for Gardasil. This is literally a vaccine that can prevent the contraction of HPV, which is a leading cause of cervical cancer. Science has been busy creating a preventive measure for a life threatening form of cancer and the response from a sitting Representative in the United States House of Representatives has been to use their position of trust to tarnish the image of said life saving vaccination.
That’s not acceptable. So, my response as a father has been to gather some easy to access facts about the fundamental safety of the vaccine and provide them to you folks here. I hope that your response is to share these basic facts with those around you that happen to be discussing this subject. Advocate for your beliefs in the small capacity of addressing the issue with those that you encounter on a daily basis.
Help my daughter grow up in a world that has the ability to save lives by preventing the leading cause of cervical cancer. Because, you know. Science is pretty awesome.