I'm an unapologetic biosciences geek. I'm also a critic of right wing scare tactics, and particularly a critic of the many and chronic inaccuracies of Michele Bachmann.
The uproar over the crack-pot anti-vaccine position that Bachmann has taken, where she wrongly asserts that vaccines are dangerous only underlines not only Bachmann's lack of scientific or medical knowledge - and her aversion to learning anything about it - but also a larger lack of facts to form a context.
First of all, I looked at the question of how plausible it was that we should be concerned about vaccines, not just the HPV vaccine, but ANY vaccination causing sudden mental retardation in children who are adolescents. Vaccines in rare - VERY VERY RARE instances can cause damage, including brain damage.
So......how rare is rare? According to a CBS News article which tracks with anything I can find from the World Health Organization, the CDC, or any other reputable organization that tracks such data, the numbers look like this:
"Vaccines have saved untold millions of lives, and the vast majority of people who get them suffer no major problems.That is, on average, approximately 65 cases a year out of the millions of vaccinations given to people of all ages that result in some degree of brain damage complications. That is an incredibly rare occurrence, given the number of vaccines administered.
But there's a trade-off: occasionally, vaccines cause injury or death. Very rarely, patients are left with what's known as "encephalopathy", the medical term for brain damage.
In fact, CBS News has found nearly 1,300 cases in which vaccine-related brain damage has been compensated in court over the past 20 years."
What has not been mentioned adequately in the media hype and hysteria over Bachmann's bogus claim about the HPV virus was that there has been research into vaccination to prevent mental retardation, a vaccine that is proposed, like the HPV vaccine, for administration to adolescent girls. From the Lancet, the Journal of Medicine in the UK (bolding, last line is my emphasis - DG):
DEVELOPMENT OF A VACCINE AGAINST MENTAL RETARDATION CAUSED BY CYTOMEGALOVIRUS INFECTION IN UTEROS.D Elek, H SternWe have a general uproar on the right over candidate Governor Perry having used an executive order to cause widespread vaccination of young girls against cervical cancer from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This was an excellent decision, one of the few for which Perry should be commended, even if it appears he issued the executive order as part of a corrupt deal to gain campaign contributions from the Pharmaceutical firms involved in manufacturing the vaccine, both direct and indirect, which benefited him personally. A smarter move would be for Perry to issue an executive order requiring boys in the same age range to be vaccinated as well, not just the girls in Texas. HPV is not only linked to cervical cancers but also to cancers of the mouth and throat. An article in the February 21, 2011 edition of the UK paper, the Daily Mail, claimed:
Department of Medical Microbiology, St. George's Hospital Medical School, London SW1X 7EZ, United Kingdon
Available online 26 September 2003.
Cytomegalovirus infection in utero is an important cause of mental retardation. A live tissue-culture-adapted strain of the virus was tested in volunteers. The subcutaneous route of inoculation was successful in stimulating neutralising and complement-fixing antibody production without important side-effects. It is suggested that the use of such a vaccine in adolescent girls would reduce the incidence of primary cytomegalovirus infection in pregnancy and thus eliminate fetal brain damage due to this cause.
Revealed: Oral sex is ‘bigger cause of throat cancer than tobacco’By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 11:03 AM on 21st February 2011 Comments (205) Add to My Stories Share A virus spread during oral sex is now the main cause of throat cancer in people under 50, scientists have warned. They say the human papilloma virus spread during unprotected sex is to blame for a disturbing rise in potentially deadly oral cancers in the last few decades. Doctors have called for boys to be vaccinated against HPV just like teenage girls to stop the spread of the disease. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1358845/Oral-sex-bigger-cause-throat-cancer-tobacco.html#ixzz1Y6QYhYR4
The ultra conservative right has demonstrated a stunning capacity to get things wrong, and never more so than on the subject of sex. Cervical cancer is a terrible disease, and was the leading cause of death for women in the United States for many years, according to this CDC site. While medical check ups, such as annual pap tests, have decreased cervical cancer as the leading cause of death for women, it remains a serious health problem for the female population, including HPV associated cancers.
Again, from the CDC:
HPV-Associated Cervical Cancer Rates by Race and EthnicityThe right wing fuss over vaccinations appears to be a concern that if women aren't at risk for cervical cancer, starting in adolescence, they will somehow suddenly become uncontrollably sexually active.
It is estimated that about 10,800 new cases of HPV-associated cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.* More black and Hispanic women get cervical cancer and are diagnosed at later stages of the disease than women of other races or ethnicities, possibly because of decreased access to Pap testing or follow-up treatment.
*These numbers are based on a large study that covered 83% of the U.S. population during 1998–2003, and may under-represent the actual number of cancers diagnosed during this time period. Also, this study used cancer registry data to estimate the amount of potentially HPV-associated cancer in the United States by examining cancer in parts of the body and cancer cell types that are more likely to be caused by HPV. Cancer registries do not collect data on the presence or absence of HPV in cancer tissue at the time of diagnosis. However, nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.
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