Why My Girl Is Not Vaccinated Against HPV


HPV/LSIL On Pap Smear

HPV/LSIL On Pap Smear by euthman, on Flickr

In Manitoba, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine is offered to all Grade 6 girls. I had to do some serious soul-searching, as well as some research, before I decided against having my daughter vaccinated, and here’s why.

I should start out by declaring that I am not against vaccination, in general. My children are all fully vaccinated against all the life-threatening diseases for which vaccines are available in Manitoba – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, Hepatitis B and meningitis. They didn’t get the chicken pox vaccine because they acquired immunity the old-fashioned way, by contracting chicken pox. Since my daughter has asthma, we usually get the flu shot, as well.

All of these vaccines have been used in North America for decades, and their efficacy, safety and side effects have been well documented. I do not believe the MMR vaccine causes autism – I think the North American diet, typically high in carbohydrates and low in healthy fats, is a much more likely culprit. But that is a different blog post.

I have, however, been reading very worrying studies about the HPV vaccine. In Israel, for example, eminent medical researchers are concerned that it is not safe for young girls. These are not crackpots, although there are plenty of those out there, using legitimate worries as grist for their mill. Aside from death, the most frightening, although mercifully rare, side effect is irreversible premature ovarian failure.

In the United States, the vaccine is also given to boys, and the side-effects are well known – fainting and pain are pretty common, especially in older boys. The question is, is it worth it?

Cervical cancer is not the same as ovarian cancer. Any woman who has regular Pap smears has an excellent chance of catching any changes before they go too far, and the procedure for removing the cells, while uncomfortable, is hardly life-changing. We all hate the speculum, even those of us with compassionate doctors who make sure to warm it up first. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do those yucky tests anymore?

But here’s the rub. Getting the vaccine does NOT mean you don’t need Pap smears anymore. HPV causes about 70% of all cervical cancers, and you don’t want to miss the other 30%. You also still need to use condoms unless you are in a monogamous relationship, as the vaccine does not protect against any other sexually transmitted diseases. Yes, it reduces the prevalence of genital warts, but those do not cause cancer, and can easily be removed if necessary.

So why would anyone take the risk of these scary side effects (or even just fainting and pain), when the benefits are so dubious? Japan has withdrawn its approval of widespread vaccination of girls, and it looks like Israel may be following suit.

Why is North America dancing to Merck’s piping? Searching the web, I’ve found all sorts of self-congratulatory pieces about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, although most of them kind of admit that the long-term effects are unknown. It’s not clear to me who is financing these studies, or what the relationship is between the researchers and the drug companies. Following the money has never led anyone astray. Remembering the scandals about Vioxx, coincidentally also from Merck, I somehow don’t feel very confident in their commitment to our protection.

What do you think, am I being paranoid?

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7 Responses to “Why My Girl Is Not Vaccinated Against HPV”

  1. mamajoan Says:

    I don’t think you’re paranoid; I feel the same way. Although my daughter is younger than yours and not yet in the age range for the HPV vaccine, I did some research on it recently — primarily in order to prepare in case my son’s doctor suggests it at his next checkup. What I found was concerning and so I’ll probably hold off on this vaccine as well, at least for a while until we learn more about it. I’m keeping an open mind in case the doctor has a convincing case for it (I do trust our doctor and she is NOT one to recommend unnecessary treatment or parrot the party line) but I think it’s unlikely that I’ll change my mind.

  2. Peter Wright Says:

    No, you are not being paranoid. I was not blessed with daughters only sons, but if I had been, I would have the same concerns as yours.
    Peter Wright recently posted…3 Timeless secrets to stop worry and overcome adversity.My Profile

  3. y Says:

    BTW and FYI, HPV is transmitted by contact, even external, it does not need semen. Education is the key

  4. Hadass Eviatar Says:

    Yep!

  5. Gemma W. Says:

    I think you’re going with your instincts here, so no you’re not being paranoid.

    Armed with the facts we currently have, I too would believe the HPV jab is unnecessary as long as girls have regular smears when they’re older.

    But, the reality is, many teenagers and young adults are not responsible about the use of contraception. Here in the UK, young people binge drink a hell of a lot, and it’s often through unprotected drunken sex that STIs are spread. It’s become a huge problem here.

    I think as time goes on, the side effects may be reduced or eliminated if improvements are made to the vaccine. In that case, I might say it’s more necessary for boys to have the jab to prevent spreading the virus from girl to girl.

  6. Hadass Eviatar Says:

    My friend from Iceland said something similar. Good points, Gemma, thanks!

  7. Lynne Says:

    you know I agree. And I said similar things years ago (I got some flack too). I did my own research and concluded similar things to you (my first few searches showed that the average age of cervical cancer patient is 43, that there are only 12,000 cases a year and of those only 4,000 people die). Thank you for saying it so well and so thoughtfully! I still do think it might be warranted in certain populations, where there is no access to good medical care, but it has been over-hyped in north america. It is a made up thing. 🙁 Shame on them.

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