Forbes' Gardasil Story Sheds Light on Why Florida's Well-Meaning HPV Legislation Failed

Categories: Health
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Florida lawmakers tackled lots of pressing issues this past legislative sessions. They debated whether the barking tree frog should be the Sunshine State's official amphibian. They clashed over making it a crime to pick up pecans that have fallen from privately owned trees. The even considered making trees painted purple a symbol for no trespassing. 

There were some hits and some misses. Among the more disappointing misses was SB 1116, a proposal that may have helped protect hordes of young women from developing cervical cancer but died in committee. 
 
The original intent of the bill, as previously discussed on this blog, was to add the human papillomavirus vaccine to Florida's list of recommended vaccines for school-aged children. 
The vaccine protects against certain strains of HPV known to cause the bulk of cervical cancers, as well as some types of throat and anal cancer. 

This proposal upset the anti-vaccine folks, particularly the group KNOW Vaccines -- the Florida arm of the National Vaccine Information Center -- which fired off a letter to Tallahassee riddled with dubious claims about the safety and cost-effectiveness of the vaccine.  

The bill was quickly and severely watered down so that rather than having a doctor recommend the vaccine, schools would hand out a flier about it. Still, KNOW wasn't happy. The group insists that it's not anti-vaccine but rather that it supports informed consent. Yet it opposed two attempts at informing parents of the availability of a vaccine that could help protect their daughters from developing cervical cancer down the line. 

And even this very diluted attempt at promoting public health and protecting against cancer by handing out fliers failed. It's pathetic. 

Well, Forbes' Matthew Herper has published a compelling feature on the political, financial, and public turmoil surrounding Gardasil, Merck's HPV vaccine. It clarifies the inherent political risk in any piece of legislation related to HPV vaccines and makes it clear why politicians are keen on avoiding the issue if they can. 

On the political front, Herper writes:

"If you look at both sides of the political spectrum I'm amazed and appalled by the lack of knowledge that's being put forward as knowledge," says Robert Ruffolo, former head of research at Wyeth. "They're not scientists, they're not physicians, and many politicians will say almost anything during election season." Nothing underscores that point more than what has happened to Gardasil, a vaccine with an exceptional safety record and effectiveness rate that nonetheless reaches a fraction of those who need it, endangering hundreds of thousands of lives in both the developed and developing world.


The article also underscores the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, points often attacked by anti-vaccine groups. Herper notes:

Yet the data indicate Gardasil is actually an exceptional drug, extremely safe and extremely effective. In clinical trials of 30,000 people, potential side effects ranging from fever to death occurred at the same rate whether patients were given a saline solution placebo or Gardasil. Deaths occurred in only 0.1% of people in either group. Since the vaccine was approved, it has been given to at least 10 million people, mostly teenage girls. The FDA and the CDC have received reports of 71 deaths of people who got the vaccine and, on examining them, found no pattern.


The next legislative session is sure to be filled with more hits and misses, wacky attempts at redesigning the no-trespassing sign, and endless squabble. Let's hope there are a few minutes for a science lesson and a chat about cervical cancer. And an elected official willing to address the issue, again. 


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5 comments
Piplance
Piplance

Here is another Forbes story about the HPV vaccine but witha twist.

 

On June 1, 2008 our 23 yr. old daughter Kristen Forbes diedafter a courageous year long fight against HPV caused cervical cancer. Thevaccine would have led to a different outcome for Kristen. This is why I am sopassionate about raising the visibility of HPV and the vaccines.

 

Six years ago Australia saw the opportunity toeradicate cervical cancer within 10 years by the use of the HPV vaccine. Theyinitiated a program to inoculate all 11-12 year-old girls and did just that.They achieved an 85 percent plus inoculation rate. This means millions of youngladies were vaccinated and protected. If Australia had thought there was aserious threat of adverse side effects, I doubt they would have chosen to puttheir entire population of young ladies at risk. Several other countries havefollowed Australia'sexample. These facts should speak volumes alone.

 

The argument about the vaccination of an 11 or 12 year oldwill have an effect on a boy or girl's attitude toward sexual activity later inlife has been proven bogus by recent studies. Most children can not evenremember what they were vaccinated for. As a father who lost his daughter tothis horrible disease, I am dumbfounded by anyone who uses this as an excuse toexpose their daughters and sons to the cancers caused by HPV.

 

Kristen’s cancer battle led to the book, “Love, Kristen,”which tells about her experience. While doing research for the book, we learnedhow little women know about HPV and its tie to cervical cancer and theavailability and importance of HPV and Pap screening tests. This fact led tothe founding of the Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation and the creation of theCervical Cancer-Free Indiana Initiative. The mission of the Kristen Forbes EVEFoundation is to eliminate cervical cancer and significantly reduce HPVinfection levels. 

 

People need to understand that "the HPV vaccination isabout cancer....not sex."

 

Kirk Forbes, Founder

Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation, Inc.

www.kristeneve.org

HowardB
HowardB

Make the vaccine.Sell the vaccine.

But don't push the vaccine on those who don't want it. It's really that simple.

Meg
Meg

 You will enjoy reading the award winning book, The HPV Vaccine Controversy.

figoliu
figoliu

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Pjenn44
Pjenn44

Young women don't need the dysfunctional state of Florida to "protect" them, they need laws that make it illegal for pharmaceutical companies to market toxic vaccines that do more harm than good.  Gardasil and Cervarix should be taken off the market.

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