Monday, August 18, 2008

The Gardasil Opt-Out

In Australia, 173,607 school-age girls were offered free HPV vaccines, also known as Gardasil. Of those, about 23 percent opted out of the vaccine. It's true that the shot, developed by Big Pharma giant Merck, has been loaded with controversy, even among those on the left. But you'll notice that this story isn't about the more than 100,000 girls that received the vaccine and will have a greatly reduced risk of cancer. Instead the story is about those that chose not to take the vaccine. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to opt out. Of course they should, but the controversy has always left me mystified.

We know that Gardasil's negative effects have been overreported. The doctors and nurses at my ob-gyn office even said they've never seen a negative effect beyond a stinging or a sore arm. Because Gardasil involves the parents of young girls thinking about those girls having sex some day, people always get a little nervous. You never see people opting out of polio vaccines. Perhaps after the vaccine has been around for longer, and the FDA approves the vaccine for men and older women, the stigma will begin to ease. At the end of the day, the HPV vaccine is one of the few ways to knowingly prevent cancer.

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