Friday, January 4, 2008

"Cancer Vaccine"?

One particularly loathsome pet peeve of mine is the labeling of Gardasil as a "cancer vaccine", such as in this AP article that appeared in today's Chicago Tribune.

And although it might be shoveling sand against the tide, I'm of the opinion that we need to be vigilant about preventing the terms "Gardasil" and "cancer vaccine" from becoming synonymous to the popular mind.

Although I'll be surprised if it runs, here's the letter I just sent to the Tribune:

January 4, 2008

Voice of the People
Chicago Tribune
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Editor,

Early last year, the Tribune printed a letter I wrote criticizing the paper’s labeling of Gardasil as a “cancer vaccine”.

Unfortunately, the Tribune continues to use this misnomer. In the article “Now, this shot might sting … a lot” (News, January 4), the opening sentence refers to the “groundbreaking vaccine that prevents cervical cancer”. Such wording implies that Gardasil is an inoculation again cervical cancer itself. It is not.

Gardasil’s developer, Merck & Co., claims that it prevents 99 percent of infections caused by two strains of HPV that cause about 70 percent of cases of cervical cancer. Gardasil provides no protection against the other 30 percent, and thus it is both inaccurate and irresponsible to call it a “cancer vaccine”.


John Jansen
Generations for Life


The Dutchman said...

Hate to disagree with you John, but this vaccine is a good idea. As of now, about 80% of sexually active women are infected with HPV and virtually every man (sexually active or not) is a carrier.

My oldest daughter, a pre-med student at Vassar, got the vaccine as soon as she studied the issue, and I will probably have my other daughter inoculated at her next check-up.

Despite what you may have read, this is a health issue, not a moral issue. It is no more controversial than a polio shot and I urge you to consider it for your daughters.

John Jansen said...


No need to hate to disagree with me.

Be assured that I fully understand this is a health issue (and thus a prudential issue), and not, strictly speaking, a moral issue.

My wife and I are leery of vaccinations generally, and tend to favor having our children receive only those our doctor recommends, as we trust him greatly (he recommends significantly fewer than the AMA recommends, to be sure).

We've not discussed Gardasil with him specifically (our eldest daughter is not yet five), but we shall.

Anonymous said...

I am very leery of Gardasil too, and don't know if I would get it for my daughter. Fortunately, my daughter is young, and I won't have to decide for a while. That is, it it is my decision to make, as Merck is pushing to have Gardasil made mandatory in many states. I'd have a problem with that, even if I were certain Gardasil was safe. But from what this site says, there have been a lot of side effects reported with gardasil:

Just glad I don't have to decide right now.