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The Truth About HPV Vaccination

September 23, 2011

There is so much nonsense floating around these days about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination that I simply must address it. And, also, my promised post on epidemiological study designs is not turning out to be as utterly fascinating and fun as I had originally anticipated, so I’d rather write about this for now.

Who gets HPV?

Answer: YOU DO. The first thing you need to know about HPV is that you probably have at least one type of HPV right now.  And that’s not because, as HPV vaccine haters claim, you are a slut or a whore. It’s not because you didn’t “save sex for marriage”. It’s because it is estimated that 80% of people who have actually had sexual intercourse will be walking around with HPV at some point. Yes, even those chaste women who have only slept with their husbands just might have it. If you are absolutely compelled to make a moral judgment about a woman who has HPV, let’s not leave the menfolk out of it entirely, okay? A kind of well-known woman named Evita Peron died of cervical cancer. Coincidentally, Juan Peron’s first wife also died of cervical cancer.  What an incredible coincidence!

What does HPV cause?

As you may have guessed from the preceding paragraph, HPV’s most famous accomplishment is causing cervical cancer. But recent studies have also shown that HPV is implicated in head and neck, anal, and even colon cancers. As we know, reader, cervical cancer incidence in the U.S. is quite low because of the availability of pap smears. Lucky us, right! Except for one other thing. The availability of those paps leads to approximately 2-3 million women who find out their pap is abnormal, due to HPV, every single year. This, in turn, leads to unpleasant treatments “down there”, involving scooching, leeping, cryo-treatments, and general misery.  It also leads 2-3 million women, every year, to do some time in mortal fear after being told they have “precancerous” lesions.  Then there are the ones that are missed, or who don’t get their paps, and who will develop and die from cervical cancer.

Why doesn’t everyone who gets HPV also get cancer?

Well, part of the answer is simply that they are lucky. Lucky that they do not have the oncogenic, or cancer-causing types, perhaps.  The primary oncogenic HPV types in the U.S. are HPV 16 and 18, and these two bad actors are thought to cause 70% of all cervical cancers.  This is why vaccines such as Gardasil and Cervarix include these types and not all 200 forms of HPV. However, I do predict that in the future HPV vaccines will prevent every oncogenic type of HPV, not just 2 or 4 of them. There are other factors that are not completely understood that lead cervical cancer to form in some women with oncogenic HPV types and not others, possibly related to genetic or environmental contributors to immunosuppression. It is critical to understand, however, that 99.9% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. It’s similar to lung cancer in that way. Only 15% of smokers get lung cancer, but almost everyone with lung cancer is a smoker.

Why would we vaccinate a 12-year-old for a sexually transmitted disease?

Vaccinations only work before an exposure.  The HPV vaccination schedule currently requires a series of three injections, though recent evidence suggests that only two may be needed in the near future. Regardless, completion of the series may take a year or two for various reasons. According to a 2005 report from the National Center for Health Statistics,  by the age of 15 approximately 26% of American females have had sex. By age 18, it’s 70%. If we’re going to fully vaccinate before exposure, the age of 12 is pushing it, actually.

Will the HPV vaccine turn my daughter into a whore?

No. If your daughter starts sleeping around and turns up pregnant after receiving the HPV vaccine, it may be because you are a crappy parent who forgot to explain the importance of forming healthy loving bonds as well as the ins-and outs- of contraception.  

Does HPV vaccine cause Guillain-Barre syndrome/my ass to get fat/death?

According to the CDC, the rate of GBS in those receiving the HPV vaccine are precisely the same as the rates among the general population, vaccinated or not. There have been a total of 68 deaths reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in individuals who received the HPV vaccine, 32 of which were confirmed, and none of which indicated that there was any association whatsoever with the HPV vaccine. If for some reason you think the CDC is a cabal aimed at lying to you about vaccinations, then nobody can help you. Not even a homeopath. And your fat ass is your problem.

From → vaccines

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