HPV vaccine approved despite dominionists
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Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 04:24:13 PM EST
In a number of articles in this section--particularly Life and Death: Just Don't Think About It, "Every Zygote Is Sacred", or "Can I have my birth control, already?" and Dominionism: pro-cancer, pro-birth-defects, pro-domestic abuse--we've focused on efforts by dominionists to prevent FDA approval of a potentially lifesaving vaccine against human papilloma virus.

In what is becoming a rather good week for us folks fighting dominionism, it appears that Gardisil, the first effective vaccine for HPV, has received FDA approval despite dominionist attempts.

The HPV vaccine is one that has been particularly newsworthy, as it is only the second vaccine that can legitimately be said to be an anticancer vaccine (the other being the hepatitis-B shot) and--much like the hep-B shot, now accepted generally as part of childhood vaccination--has been the center of quite the firestorm among the dominionist community.

HPV is the primary cause of both cervical cancer in female girls and of anal cancer in gay men (with similar rates of infection for both) as well as being the primary cause of cancer of the penis in all men, gay or straight; it also happens to be one of the primary tools used in dominionist "Scared Celibate" campaigns.

One of the primary reasons that dominionists have fought approval of HPV vaccination is the claim that this will give teenage girls, in essence, a "license to fornicate" and remove one of the primary tools they use to scare kids away from sex (namely, the idea that they'll get CANCER and that condoms Will Not Save Them, and boys will lose their Naughty Bits).  This is despite, of course, the fact that there are just as many STDs out there that are likely to discourage kids (not the least of these being HIV, but also things like herpes and the like).

Examples of how the dominionist movement used HPV to fight the notion of even the effectiveness of condoms is noted in an article in The Nation:

Christian conservatives have a special reason to be less than thrilled about the HPV vaccine. Although not as famous as chlamydia or herpes, HPV has the distinction of not being preventable by condoms. It's Exhibit A in those gory high school slide shows that try to scare kids away from sex, and it is also useful for undermining the case for rubbers generally--why bother when you could get HPV anyway? In 2000, Congressman (now Senator) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who used to give gruesome lectures on HPV for young Congressional aides, even used HPV to propose warning labels on condoms. With HPV potentially eliminated, the antisex brigade will lose a card it has regarded as a trump unless it can persuade parents that vaccinating their daughters will turn them into tramps, and that sex today is worse than cancer tomorrow. According to New Scientist, 80 percent of parents want the vaccine for their daughters--but their priests and pastors haven't worked them over yet.

The dominionist groups in opposition to the HPV vaccine were some of the most well known--among them, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America all issued statements urging the FDA not to approve Gardisil--on the grounds it would undercut their efforts to "scare kids celibate".  Most of those groups in fact still actively oppose requiring vaccination.

A strictly voluntary vaccination would be largely useless, public-health-wise; to give an analogy, we would never have eliminated smallpox were it not for mandatory vaccination, and in fact polio has had a resurgence in Africa and mumps and measles in the US specifically because of people "opting out" of vaccinations for religious reasons.

(And yes, some dominionists are increasingly opting out of most vaccination, claiming anything cultured in "human diploid cell" culture is made from aborted babies"; this pretty much includes most modern live vaccines, including human rabies vaccine (and the same site claims rabies immunoglobulin also comes from "aborted babies"); in fact, quite a few of the groups promoting this stuff also offer pre-written exemption forms and occasionally use blatant scripture-twisting to justify this, claiming even that vaccination is "witchcraft". One expects that if they are misfortunate enough to have their children bitten by a rabid animal they will allow their child to suffer one of the most horrifying ways possible for a human being to die. (Warning--last two links are to graphic and highly disturbing pictures and videos of humans dying of rabies.))

Very interestingly, the "Pill", the hepatitis-B shot, and in fact every single tool out there that would potentially make sex safer has been opposed by dominionists on identical grounds; when hep-B vaccination became mandatory as a term for school admission (a necessary evil due to hep-B being endemic in certain groups--such as immigrants and Native American populations--and kids being unfortunate enough to be born with hep-B in many instances) dominionists protested their kids getting the hep-B shot for what it still depicted in the dominionist community as "a disease mostly junkies and gays get".  In fact, the fact that the hep-B jab is now required has been used by dominionists to encourage parents to use correspondence-schools.

The other major reason is that HPV is in fact one of the things that anti-gay groups in the dominionist community use to justify what increasingly are de facto progroms against LGBT individuals--including the "Protection of Marriage" amendment which recently failed passage in the Senate.  Among other things, Paul Cameron--and the AFA and its affiliates who parrot Cameron, NARTH, Lifesite.net,  Focus on the Family, and others--have used the incidence of HPV-related anal cancer to claim gay men have a far shorter average lifespan (in fact, the rate is only higher than for straight women if gay men with HPV are coinfected with HIV; otherwise, the rate per population is nearly identical to that of women with HPV-related cervical cancer) and to promote the idea of gay men getting "gay bowel disease".   (In other words, with an effective HPV vaccine, it'd practically eliminate their claim that gay men will get anal cancer.)

Fortunately, for once, the FDA has listened to reason rather than dominionists:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced the approval of Gardasil, the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer, precancerous genital lesions and genital warts due to human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6, 11, 16 and 18. The vaccine is approved for use in females 9-26 years of age. Gardasil was evaluated and approved in six months under FDA's priority review process--a process for products with potential to provide significant health benefits.

"Today is an important day for public health and for women's health, and for our continued fight against serious life-threatening diseases like cervical cancer," said Alex Azar, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). "HHS is committed to advancing critical health measures such as the development of new and promising vaccines to protect and advance the health of all Americans."

HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 6.2 million Americans become infected with genital HPV each year and that over half of all sexually active men and women become infected at some time in their lives.  On average, there are 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 deaths attributed to it in the United States each year. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women; and is estimated to cause over 470,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths each year.

For most women, the body's own defense system will clear the virus and infected women do not develop related health problems.  However, some HPV types can cause abnormal cells on the lining of the cervix that years later can turn into cancer.  Other HPV types can cause genital warts.  The vaccine is effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers and against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause approximately 90 percent of genital warts.

"This vaccine is a significant advance in the protection of women's health in that it strikes at the infections that are the root cause of many cervical cancers," said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs.  "The development of this vaccine is a product of extraordinary work by scientists as well as by FDA's review teams to help facilitate the development of very novel vaccines to address unmet medical needs.  This work has resulted in the approval of a number of new products recently, including Gardasil, which address significant public health needs."

In addition to its initial approval in women, a phase III trial will be conducted regarding the effectiveness of HPV vaccination of men.

Full prescribing info and a FAQ on Gardisil is at the FDA's website for biological products.

By far the best news I've heard in quite a while -- and I spend an awful lot of time perusing news sites and RSS feeds!

by anomalous4 on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 04:44:04 PM EST

From The Broadsheet

The next step: in a few weeks the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will issue recommendations for how the vaccine should be administered. "While the ACIP decisions are non-binding, its recommendations set the standard by which states decide if they will mandate vaccination, insurance companies choose to cover the cost, and doctors decide how to advise their patients," writes Feministing.

Unfortunately, we already know what one member of the 15-person ACIP panel thinks about the vaccine. Dr. Reginald Finger, who is tightly linked to Focus on the Family, has already stated his opposition to making the vaccine routinely available to girls, fearing it will undermine abstinence-only sex ed.

The committee meets on June 29th, so there's still time to influence the other 14 members of the committee. (Yes, Dr. Finger sounds like a lost cause.) It's not worth exposing millions of girls and women to the risk of cervical cancer to preserve the religious-right's fantasy that abstinence-only sex ed can stop the spread of HPV. Tell the committee to do everything they can to spread this vaccine by writing to:

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1600 Clifton Road, NE MS E-05

Atlanta, Georgia 30333

The aforementioned Dr. Finger has previously gone on the record with doubts about any future vaccine for HIV as there might be "disinhibition" of sexual activity - link

I do not understand these people. Not only are they willing to let those they see as sinners die but what of those who are chaste until marriage but have the misfortune to marry a spouse who is not chaste. Also what of those who are sexually abused who catch disease again through no act of their own?

by chiaroscuro on Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 03:48:52 AM EST

I don't get why they are upset.  Who knows yet if the vaccine will be the greatest thing.  I remember when the Chicken Pox vaccine came out and they were so excited.  Then all of a sudden you could still get the chicken pox with the vaccine, only it wouldn't be as bad.  So who really knows about this vaccine.  I'm not into every shot they say we should take is the best policy.

by star28 on Fri Sep 01, 2006 at 05:35:55 PM EST

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