Friday, August 22, 2008

More on Gardasil

I finally got to read the long NYTimes piece on the HPV vaccine. The piece is thorough and well-reported, asking many important connections about Merck lobbying and cost-per-life saved. The article's conclusion is somewhat agnostic. It doesn't say that the vaccine is bad, but it does raise a lot of quesitons about both its effectiveness and its widespread use.

But here's the thing that really gets me: these questions are almost never asked about other kinds of medication and the article makes lobbying seem unique to Merck. It's not. It was only until recently that we began to question the amount of subsidies pumped into gas and feed corn farming. Once we're talking about preventing cervical cancer in women, however, that's when we bust out our investigative skills.

I'm not complaining. The piece raises a lot of really important questions, like how urgent is it to vaccinate against a virus that is largely seen as an inconvenience (cough, cough, flu vaccine). The article also points to a false sense of security the vaccine might give women. But I know very few women that suddenly think they're impervious after getting a shot. After all, there are plenty of other STIs (and not to mention pregnancy) that you can get if you risk sex without a condom.

In any case, I still believe that widespread use of the HPV vaccine along with continued research into its effectiveness is sound policy to pursue. After all, even if cervical cancer isn't listed as one of the most deadly, if we can prevent it, it seems like a good idea.

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