Gardasil: What's All the Noise About?

By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 14, 2007

Writing in The Nation, Karen Houppert provides the most comprehensive overview I’ve seen of the controversy surrounding making Gardasil mandatory for middle-school age girls.

Gardasil, as we’ve discussed before, is is the only FDA-approved HPV vaccine. Houppert outlines who’s for it, who’s against it and all the reasons why it’s become such a huge issue.

Today, as thirty-one state legislatures consider mandating the vaccine for middle school girls, skepticism about the wisdom of embarking on this swift and widespread inoculation program has bubbled up from critics who span the political spectrum. These strange bedfellows include Christian conservatives and their abstinence-only ilk, who have long argued that safe sex encourages profligate sex; a slew of Big Pharma critics, who see how Merck (which stands to make $4 billion a year on the vaccine by most estimates) is angling to corner this huge new vaccine market; the growing antivaccine movement, which objects to all such school-entry requirements; the parental-rights folks with a libertarian strain, who bridle at any mandates regarding their children’s health; and a smattering of women’s health advocates, who worry that the pace of the vaccine’s introduction is jeopardizing its ultimate success.

What’s all the noise about?

Read on.

3 responses to “Gardasil: What’s All the Noise About?”

  1. You found the Nation article to be the most comprehensive overview of Gardasil you’ve seen, but it missed these crucial points: 1) cervical cancer is a rare disease, accounting for about 3,700 deaths per year, most likely to afflict women living in dire poverty (see American Cancer Society Guidelines for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Use to Prevent Cervical Cancer and Its Precursors reported in CA: A Journal for Clinicians, January 23, 2007); 2) mass vaccinations of 9-12 year-olds for a rare disease may make sense if the vaccine was proven to be risk-free, but fewer than 1200 girls under 12 were in the FDA-required pre-approval trials and they were followed less than 18 months. 3) no one under 15 participated in the one trial that followed women the longest—4.5 years.

  2. Excellent points — some of which was addressed in this earlier post or has been discussed by Lucinda Marshall and other writers we’ve pointed to. The Nation story didn’t hit on all of the medical controversy, but it did cover the debate over Gardasil — and who’s on what side and why — quite thoroughly.

  3. The Canadian Women’s Health Network has written an interesting article that addresses some of Maryann’s concerns– we just posted it at the OBOS website.

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