Now that we have established those obvious basics, maybe we can discuss the problems with Indiana House Bill 1359 with rational discernment.
This legislation seems to be an obvious reaction to the fact the too many parents are not doing what some liberals in the Indiana General Assembly want. Current Indiana policy regarding a controversial vaccine was created five years ago. It was set in a fashion, which many readers here might say is logical, balanced, and responsible.
Parents of 6th grade girls attending public school are given information about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect girls from one of HPV’s possible effects: cervical cancer. The parents can then take this information to their family physician to discuss the need, benefits, and risks of the HPV vaccine.
When this policy was approved by the legislature, there were many who wanted to mandate the vaccine. Yet, the HPV vaccine was new and very controversial. There were several questions surrounding its safety and effectiveness.
The HPV question is very different from other vaccines. A child attending school is at risk of mumps, measles, and many other diseases by virtue of their mere presence in a classroom full of children. We call those communicable diseases.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Unless school activities have changed drastically for the worse, the risk of HPV to other children merely present in a classroom is still zero. There’s no likelihood of an “HPV outbreak” quickly infecting entire classrooms. It is not an airborne pathogen caught by bystanders.
HPV shouldn’t be written off as irrelevant even if it is behaviorally spread. The behavior still has moral ramifications and not surprisingly, it can be dangerous. It is the HPV virus that is largely responsible for cervical cancers, genital warts in both men and women and anal cancer among homosexual males. (You won’t find that last fact printed in the media, which rarely mentions elevated risks of homosexual behavior.)
There is a legitimate emotional desire to save women from a horrible cancer, but that emotion often overlooks the shortcomings of the vaccine. The two vaccines – Gardisil and Cervarix – only protect women from certain HPV virus strands accountable for cervical cancer. There are up to 30% of the virus strains still causing cervical cancer that these vaccines may not touch. Gardasil also has very limited effectiveness against genital warts.
While considered by some to be “safe” many adverse effects have also been registered with the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). By November 2010, more than 18,000 complaints had been reported. That’s twice the number of reports following injection with Menactra, another vaccine for adolescents that protects against meningitis.
There were also the questions about the duration of the HPV vaccine proposed for 12-year-old girls. Some reports indicated that the vaccine would not last until most women marry in there 20’s.
Therefore, the vaccine has benefits, but it is not a silver bullet for cancer its proponents often claim. Without such an understanding, it risks giving women, and parents, a false sense of security in regard to their remaining health risks and sexual choices. Parents really needed to know this limitation.
Soon after our legislature changed an HPV vaccine bill from a mandate to an informational measure for Hoosier parents in 2009, the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination met in Reston, Virginia.
Dr. Diane Harper, Director of the Gynecological Cancer Prevention and Research Group at the University of Missouri told the group that the vaccination will do little to reduce cervical cancer rates and expressed concern that there have been no efficacy trials in children under the age of 15.
According to Dr. Harper, 70 percent of all HPV infections in women resolve themselves without treatment within a year. Within two years, the number climbs to 90 percent. Of the remaining 10 percent of HPV infections, only half will develop into cervical cancer. With those numbers the need for a governmental vaccination mandate seems negligible.
Dr. Harper also surprised the audience by stating that the incidence of cervical cancer in the U.S. is already so low that “even if we get the vaccine and continue PAP screening, we will not lower the rate of cervical cancer in the US.”
Karen Smith-McCune, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. Smith-McCune, a gynecologist, was an early and vocal skeptic of the HPV vaccine.
“This is a new product. It is possible there are risks that have not come to light yet because of the newness of the product, and that’s what VAERS is for: to assure us we haven’t missed something unknown. We don’t know about safety until something’s been around a long time,” she says. “It’s valid for parents to ask why they should do it.”
Smith-McCune says she resisted the adoption of the HPV vaccine early on because cervical cancer is quite rare and preventable in females who get regular pap smears. And most of the time, the body fights off HPV without harm. She says she feels the vaccine was “shoved down our throats, as parents.”
Jump now back to the 2015 Indiana General Assembly. Rep. Sue Errington, (a former Planned Parenthood employee) is the author of House Bill 1359. Her bill, awaiting a vote in committee this week, seeks to change the current policy on HPV vaccinations. It takes the issue away from local schools providing information to parents and makes it a much more heavy-handed approach coming from the Indiana Department of Health. The bill seeks to increase the vaccination rate to a level some might call nearly universal: 80%.
According to Web MD only about 27% of girls are fully immunized for HPV, which involves three shots, (44% have received at least one shot). If Indiana’s vaccination rates are similar, then it seems obvious that the authors of HB 1359 do not like the decision most parents are making for their young girls . . . and therein lays the rub. The peasants are not following the wishes of the political do-gooders. It seems that it is time to change tactics and turn up the heat on parents.
Shouldn’t this issue remain between families and their doctors? Why should this become part of a new campaign from legislators to be carried out by a bunch of Indianapolis bureaucrats?
House Bill 1359 is not necessary at best, and at worst it is an attack upon parental authority. Yet, the media will make it into an emotional issue of protecting women pressuring legislators to support HB 1359. This policy change can only be stopped if legislators hear from people saying “No” to HB 1359.
You can call your legislator at 317-232-9600 and let them know your concerns with HB 1359.