Although I rarely state it on these pages, I am an atheist. As a scientist, I’ve examined the evidence for a god (any god), and found it lacking. I think religion, especially in the USA, can be dangerous. Religious fundamentalism is behind the attack on teaching of real science, such as evolution and global warming. Although some may argue that trying to block the teaching of evolution, in favor of creationism, is innocuous (though absolutely unconstitutional), most would argue that since evolution is the basis of all biology (and therefore, medicine), it is harmful.
It’s when fundamentalist religion gets involved in medicine, whether it’s therapeutic abortions, vaccines, or stem-cell research, that it’s clear that religion becomes dangerous to human lives. I just want to focus on one tiny corner of the medical world, where religious beliefs block good medicine–HPV vaccinations.
I get lots of email about my articles that are published here. Sometimes, it’s about grammar or spelling (and the grammar KGB can be uncivil at times). Sometimes, it’s compliments or questions about what I’ve written. Rarely, they’re rude and usually include quite immature comments about the location of my head. However, I recently received an email that is more or less polite, but is filled with so many errors and logical fallacies, that I thought it should be critiqued publicly.
Here are my point-by-point comments about the email:
I stumbled across your blog and could not believe what I was reading about the safety of Gardasil. As a mother of a Gardasil injured daughter, your profuse endorsement made me skeptical. I want to begin by saying I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-Gardasil. Continue reading “I get an email about Gardasil”
It’s getting close to flu season, and it’s time to get your flu shot. Of course, there are myths for why people won’t get their flu shots. All of them are amusingly bad.
Last fall, Dr. Mark Crislip published A Budget of Dumb Asses (requires a Medscape account) that takes on anti-science with a whole new level of snark. I have part of it here for you, thanks to Biodork’s (great name) Time for your flu shot! It’s all about getting (or not getting) the flu vaccination, but you can replace flu with any other vaccination. Apparently, he wrote it for health care workers, but hey, I think it works for patients too!
Mark Crislip starts out his snark with a quick statement about not getting a flu shot. You might be a dumb ass, if you’re unwilling to get the vaccine:
I wonder if you are one of those Dumb Asses who do not get the flu shot each year? Yes. Dumb Ass. Big D, big A. You may be allergic to the vaccine (most are not when tested), you may have had Guillain-Barre, in which case I will cut you some slack. But if you don’t have those conditions and you work in healthcare and you don’t get a vaccine for one of the following reasons, you are a Dumb Ass.
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier reports that Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed a bill that would have provided sixth- and seventh-graders with information about the HPV vaccine. The vaccine would have been provided at no cost to all seventh-graders whose parents allowed them to have the vaccination. The bill had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in the South Carolina legislature.
The HPV vaccine provides immunity to men and women against several types of human papilloma virus which is associated with with over 20,000 cancers in women and 11,000 cancers in men every year. Governor Haley defended her veto by calling the bill unnecessary and a “precursor to another taxpayer-funded healthcare mandate,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports.
State Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg, S.C.) sponsored the bill and blasted Haley’s move, calling her decision one that…
puts her own selfish political ambitions ahead of the people of South Carolina. This bill had bipartisan support and gives optional education and preventative vaccines to adolescents in an effort to thwart cervical cancer. This is a common sense approach to a very serious problem. To call this measure unnecessary is demeaning and insulting to the heroic women who fight this cancer everyday. I am deeply disappointed that politics once again has prevailed over women’s health.
In 2007, Haley actually co-sponsored a bill that would provide mandatory HPV vaccinations. It failed to pass through the legislature because it failed to provide opt-outs, which was corrected in the 2012 version.
Let’s be clear here. Haley did not veto this bill because of bad medicine or bad science. She vetoed it purely for political expediency and by doing so, she stands firmly against a simple inoculation that would prevent a deadly cancer. This is not a political issue, it is an anti-cancer issue.
Vaccines save lives. I guess Nikki Haley doesn’t understand that! Maybe she’ll provide cigarettes for free to the school children of South Carolina.
A few days ago, news reports claimed that 16 per cent of cancers around the world were caused by infections. This isn’t an especially new or controversial statement, as there’s clear evidence that some viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause cancer (think HPV, which we now have a vaccine against). It’s not inaccurate either. The paper that triggered the reports did indeed conclude that “of the 12.7 million new cancer cases that occurred in 2008, the population attributable fraction (PAF) for infectious agents was 16·1%”.
But for me, the reports aggravated an old itch. I used to work at a cancer charity. We used to get frequent requests we got for such numbers (e.g. how many cancers are caused by tobacco?). However, whenever such reports actually came out, we got a lot confused questions and comments. The problem is that many (most?) people have no idea what it actually means to say that X% of cancers are caused by something, where those numbers come from, or how they should be used. Continue reading “Infections causes 16% of cancers–what?”
In next week’s issue of Forbes, Matthew Herper, the magazine’s medical editor, penned the article, The Gardasil Problem: How The U.S. Lost Faith In A Promising Vaccine, an insightful analysis of why Gardasil, the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), has not become as important to vaccination strategies as measles or whooping cough. All vaccines keep you alive, even if the disease does not appear to be scary. There’s a belief, especially amongst the anti-vaccination crowd, that measles is just a few spots, and there are few risks to being infected. The risk of severe complications is small, but significant.
On the other hand, the HPV vaccine does one thing and does it well–it prevents an HPV infection. Human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease, causes 70% of cervical cancers, 80% of anal cancers, 60% of vaginal cancers, and 40% of vulvar cancers. It also prevents the majority of HPV caused oral cancers. In other words, these diseases are in a different league of danger. And they can be prevented. Continue reading “Why do Americans hate Gardasil?”