Sunday, March 04, 2007


You might expect that a vaccine against a disease that causes cancer would be widely embraced as soon as it was proven safe. If the disease in question was transmitted by contaminated food or water, sneezing, or most of the other ways that diseases spread then it probably would be widely accepted.

However recently there is a recently released vaccine against Cervical Cancer. The virus in question is only transmitted sexually. Apparently 80% of women in the US will catch it before the age of 50 (so it's obviously not scaring people away from unsafe sex).

There is a strong Christian lobby against the vaccine, their idea is that if sex doesn't cause debilitating and/or fatal conditions such as cervical cancer then their daughters will have less reason to avoid it. The fact is that religious people are statistically more likely to practice unsafe sex (see this link) so it seems unlikely that preventing one of the STDs that religious people might catch will affect the amount of unsafe sex.

One thing that seems strange about the entire discussion is that no-one has raised the possibility of vaccinating boys. Vaccinating boys could lead to the virus being eradicated. Even if an eradication attempt fails it will help save some of the Christian girls.


Anonymous said...

Is there really much Christian opposition to the vaccine, or is that merely what the media expects?

In the Canadian experience, as reported by the National Post:

[I]t must be said that the people making this argument are few. The press created an expectation of controversy by highlighting some ambiguous early statements made about Gardasil by spokesmen for Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council; both groups have in fact come out strongly in favour of Gardasil (a Focus spokesman calls it "awesome"), though they are still opposed to having it made mandatory in schools.

And I note that the Republican governor of Texas has ordered that schoolgirls in his state be vaccinated.

-- Marc

David Adam said...

I had a read of the pharmacological information for Gardasil, which says:

Immunogenicity and safety of Gardasil have been demonstrated in 9- to 15-year-old boys. Protective efficacy has not been evaluated in males.

i.e. the vaccine doesn't cause dangerous side effects but does create an immune response, but they don't know whether it actually reduces HPV infection or transmission in men.

Anonymous said...

What exactly do you mean by "safe sex"? HPV is not stopped by a condom you know. This is a major reason why the rates of infection are so high. Far too many people have bought into the fallacy of condom use == safe sex == invulnerable to all STDs.

I don't know if you are correct that this is the work of "a strong Christian lobby". It may be. However, it does seem that you are unaware that there is a vocal group opposed to all mandatory vaccinations. The arguments vary, but include civil liberties and vaccinations being "unnatural". At one point in time you could be fined are imprisoned for failing to comply with laws governing the vaccination of your children. This changed with the introduction of laws recognizing so-called "conscientious objectors". You can google "conscientious objector"+vaccination to read their propaganda, or "anti vaccinationists" to find out more about them.

etbe said...

Interesting that HPV isn't stopped by a condom, that's all the more reason for vaccinating boys.