Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HPV...yes, again

This morning, the Washington Post writes that "More than one-third of American women are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) the time they are 24 years old..." This is an awfully interesting statistic, given the recent foofaraw about Gardasil, the anti-HPV vaccine. In fact, the subject group of the study was females aged 14 to 24, making the protests against vaccinating 12-year-olds seem naïve and reckless. The silver lining is that prevalence of the strains known to cause cancer are lower than previously thought.

The end of the article notes that "Merck, which sells its product under the trade name Gardasil, has been lobbying for laws requiring the vaccine for schoolgirls. After criticism from politicians and editorial writers, it recently said it will stop doing so." This, I do not understand. I mean, I have mixed feelings about laws that require immunization (on the one hand, it limits free choice, on the other, required vaccines are usually funded which means they're not required lightly and the public health benefits tend to be huge...when was the last time you got polio/smallpox/etc?). But why stop a drug company from lobbying for the vaccine? I mean, I assume the politicians can review the information and make a rational decision. I always worry when measures are taken to "protect" officials from undue influence...since uhm, isn't it a job qualification that they not be susceptible to undue influence?

Random aside: I could swear I've been told/read numerous times that untreated HPV can cause infertility. According to the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Canada, that's true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, all by way of pelvic inflammatory disease. Not so much HPV. From this, we learn that Gardasil ≠ no more pap smears.

Health Canada's HPV information page

Public Health Agency of Canada's HPV vaccine Q & A

Previous posts on HPV: #1, #2

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