[NVIC] HPV Vaccine Order Unleashes Parents' Anger
March 07, 2007
National Vaccine Information Center
A young boy on the beach was throwing the washed-up starfish back into
the ocean. A stranger passing by told him not to bother, because it would
not make any difference, there were thousands of beaches and millions of
starfish, and it would not be possible to save all of them. The boy reached
down, picked up a starfish, threw it back into the ocean and said, smiling
softly, " I made a difference for that one!"
"Health experts are dismayed by the controversy over Merck's Gardasil,
which protects against two common forms of the sexually transmitted virus
that causes cervical cancer. But it has hardly surprised them. Never has
compulsory use of a drug been pushed with such breakneck speed -- with
concerted lobbying by its manufacturer...."Why is this happening so fast?
Why is there a mandate when this is such a different kind of disease?"
asked Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information
Center, a nonprofit consumer organization that opposes HPV legislation.
Most states did not add the chickenpox vaccine to schoolchildren's
immunization schedules until several years after its approval in the
mid-1990s, she noted." - Susan Levine, Washington Post
"More than 5,900 e-mails and printed notes have been sent to Perry about
his Feb. 2 executive order that girls entering the sixth grade in 2008 be
vaccinated against the human papilloma virus, which causes most cases of
cervical cancer...."Please, reconsider. Please, return parental choices,
control, power to parents," wrote Bette D. Bittner of Caldwell. Ned Funnell
of Longview also told Perry the decision to vaccinate belongs to parents,
not the state.....of the e- mails and letters on the vaccine received by
the governor's office as of Tuesday, 89 percent opposed his order, while 11
percent favored it......Most of the e- mails and letters on the cervical
cancer vaccine were from Texans, with about 1,500 coming from out of
state...." - Kelly Shannon, Associated Press
" I am happy our Senate [Indiana] chose to scale down the legislation
before they approved it and not make the vaccine mandatory for young girls
across the state. Legislation that makes it mandatory, I believe, takes
away a parent's right but also the child's choice to get the vaccine,
especially when the side effects of the vaccine hasn't been studied for any
lengthy period of time. Who knows what disastrous side effects the vaccine
could have. I'm not sure if it is worth the risk....A vaccine against HPV
to prevent cervical cancer isn't the only answer, and only time will tell
whether it is even an answer at all. However, I do know there are many more
damaging killers in the world that should be getting the attention that
Merck and Gardasil have brought to cervical cancer." - Tonya Windell,
Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:
There is a message that is being sent by parents to the Centers for Disease
Control, drug companies, medical organizations and legislators in every
state in response to proposed HPV vaccine mandates: we are not going to sit
back and watch more vaccines be added to the long list of mandatory
vaccinations for our children without having something to say about it.
Parents, who have never questioned vaccine mandates before, joined with
parents, who have been questioning vaccine mandates for a long time, and
have drawn a line in the sand on forced vaccination with a vaccine that has
not been proven safe in little girls for an infection that cannot be
transmitted in the school setting.
For 25 years, the National Vaccine Information has been a strong advocate
for the right to informed consent to vaccination as part of a broader
national campaign to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public
education. We have long questioned why, every time the pharmaceutical
industry produces a new vaccine, it is automatically recommended for
universal use by the CDC and AAP and automatically added by states to the
mandatory list of vaccines required for children to get an education.
It has never been a secret to those of us working with parents, who have
difficulty obtaining medical, religious and conscientious belief exemptions
to vaccination, that drug companies, public health officials and medical
organizations lobby hard to get new vaccines mandated. Thanks to Merck's
heavy handed lobbying efforts using a Merck-funded "non- profit"
organization to carry out its blitzkrieg introduction of HPV vaccine
mandates in several dozen states, the whole nation now understands that new
vaccine mandates are powered by the CDC's "universal use" recommendations
and drug company-financed lobbying campaigns.
After a quarter century of remaining underground, the debate about
state-forced vaccination is now taking place publicly. Much to the surprise
of many doctors and lawmakers, a majority of parents across the country are
standing up and saying "Show us the science and give us a choice." Mothers
and fathers of vaccine injured children, who learned the hard way just how
important it is to make well informed vaccine choices, are not surprised at
Power of Truth Rally
July 20, 2005, Washington D.C.
Parents Question HPV Vaccine
Push to Mandate Shots Rapidly Creates Backlash
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 4, 2007; C01
By Susan Levine
Click here for the URL:
In barely nine months, the first cancer-specific vaccine to win federal
approval has gone from licensing and the enthusiastic embrace of dozens of
states to a widespread backlash against moves to mandate immunization for
Health experts are dismayed by the controversy over Merck's Gardasil, which
protects against two common forms of the sexually transmitted virus that
causes cervical cancer. But it has hardly surprised them. Never has
compulsory use of a drug been pushed with such breakneck speed -- with
concerted lobbying by its manufacturer. Never have such efforts advanced
largely through political and legislative channels instead of medical
authorities and public education campaigns.
Votes to require the three-dose vaccine before students enter the sixth
grade remain likely in the District and numerous jurisdictions. On Friday,
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) announced he would sign the first bill
in the country to prescribe vaccination, albeit with an opt-out provision.
However, doctors question whether there will be adequate funding and access
to support these measures, and some fear that the opt-out clauses, included
to counter opponents' concerns, could erode support for immunizations in
If parents are given broad opportunity to exempt their 11- and 12-year-old
daughters from the vaccine for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, will they
be less willing to have children of any age inoculated against other, more
"The message that we send to parents is exceedingly important," said Gary
Freed, a professor of pediatrics and health policy at the University of
Michigan and chairman of the federal government's National Vaccine Advisory
Committee. "Are we going to be creating a culture of vaccine refusal that's
not going to serve us well?"
Few people dispute the promise of the new vaccine, which clinical trials
proved to be highly effective against two HPV strains that cause nearly
three-quarters of the 10,000 annual cervical cancer cases in the United
States. About 40 percent of women who receive the diagnosis die. Low-income
and minority women are most affected, with African American mortality rates
more than twice that of whites.
Still, for some parents those numbers might not be great enough to justify
state intervention. Maureen Siegel of Manassas, who has a 10-year-old
daughter, acknowledged she must learn more. "I don't know everything there
is to know about the basics," she said. "I also don't know if cervical
cancer is a big enough epidemic to make [vaccination] mandatory."
Because the virus is transmitted through intimate contact, the arguments
for required vaccination differ from the rationale for enforcing shots
against diseases easily spread in schools, such as measles. They are less
about safeguarding the public and more about safeguarding individuals.
"Why is this happening so fast? Why is there a mandate when this is such a
different kind of disease?" asked Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the
National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit consumer organization that
opposes HPV legislation. Most states did not add the chickenpox vaccine to
schoolchildren's immunization schedules until several years after its
approval in the mid-1990s, she noted.
Yet the backlash is also about the age of children targeted. Although the
government approved Gardasil for women up to 26, it recommended routine
administration to girls 11 and 12 to ensure they be protected before they
become sexually active. The vaccine is most effective when given before
first sexual contact. Its duration is unclear.
Some people argue that vaccination could encourage adolescents to be more
promiscuous. More believe that parents' authority over their daughters'
health care would be usurped. Others point out that cervical cancer will
occur in only a fraction of the more than 7.5 million girls and young women
estimated to be infected with the virus in this country.
A Maryland state senator retreated quickly in January after being deluged
by irate letters about her bill for mass HPV vaccination before middle
school. Still pending is a second bill to create a task force of
legislators, teachers and health professionals to study the issue through
"I thought it was imperative to continue the conversation," explained Del.
Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D- Prince George's), who introduced the study
initiative. "People need to be educated on the issue in order to be able to
In the District, a mandatory immunization bill could be voted out of the
D.C. Council Health Committee as early as Friday. One sponsor, council
member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), has heard mixed reaction from residents, with
the positive responses coming "almost uniformly from women."
"I really hope people don't lose sight of the fact that this is the first
time we've ever had a vaccine against a cancer," Cheh said. "You seize and
take advantage of it."
Local health experts urge more deliberate consideration. "There has to be a
period of awareness," said Joseph Wright, executive director of the Child
Health Advocacy Institute at Children's Hospital in Northwest Washington.
The hospital has not decided its position on the council's pending bill.
"Legislators would be wise to recognize the way the public winds are
blowing and build in a very strong public education campaign before
stressing the mandatory aspect."
Kim Koontz Bayliss, for one, was initially angered by the proposal, seeing
it as an intrusion on her judgment of what is best for her 11-year-old,
Nell. The Cleveland Park resident has come around some in the past month.
After a television commercial on Gardasil prompted questions from her
daughter, she read up on HPV and the vaccine. Nell is due soon for her
annual checkup, and her mother plans to discuss it with the doctor.
But, she added, "I'm not going to make a move until I talk to the
Virginia's legislation would not take effect for most sixth-grade girls
until the 2009-2010 school year. (In Texas, an executive order recently
issued by Gov. Rick Perry (R) would begin mandatory HPV immunization there
in September 2008.) Proponents say the lengthy notice will allow enough
time to watch for complications as the vaccine is used more broadly. In the
clinical trials, in which 11,000 girls and women participated, a slight
soreness at the site of injection was the only identified side effect.
Recent reports suggest some cases of fainting, dizziness, fever and nausea.
"It's a very cautious approach," said Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport
News), who championed the bill. It passed with no organized opposition.
Both he and Kaine have stressed the opt-out clause, which will allow
parents to say no without explaining why. Some contend that if enough
children are excluded, there will be little strength left in the requirement.
"We have no clue yet what the uptake will be for this vaccine," said Jon
Abramson, chairman of the committee that advises the federal Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention on immunization practices. The panel never
addressed the issue of inoculation as a condition of school attendance.
Abramson, who also is a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at
Wake Forest University medical school, does not support the legislative moves.
Although mandates help reduce disparities in health care, he agreed, they
have to be funded. And cost is a key concern in his mind: A three-dose
regimen of Gardasil, given over six months, runs $360 or more, and a
significant part of the population would have to pay out of pocket because
families lack private insurance or do not qualify for a subsidy through the
federal Vaccines for Children program. Dollars often follow mandates, but
they are not guaranteed. Virginia is unusual in that Kaine has added $1.4
million to the budget for coverage.
"It's very, very unclear to me that states have the money to pay for it,"
Abramson said, "and I would be very concerned that kids would be kicked out
of school because parents can't pay."
Maryland's recent experience with older students and vaccines provides
little reassurance of early compliance. Thousands of teens were barred from
school for weeks in January because they didn't get newly required
chickenpox and hepatitis B shots -- despite extensive publicity and free
Abramson advised Merck & Co. not to lobby lawmakers over Gardasil. Merck
disregarded his and others' suggestion, until its role became such a
distraction that the company stopped two weeks ago.
"Politics are not a good driver of health-care recommendations," Abramson
said. "Time will help us decide what's the best policy."
Staff writers Theola Labbé and Christy Goodman contributed to this report.
Vaccine order unleashes flood of anger
Bryan College Station Eagle, TX
March 7, 2007
By KELLEY SHANNON
Click here for the URL:
AUSTIN - Texans who disagreed with Gov. Rick Perry's order that girls be
vaccinated against a virus that causes cervical cancer flooded his office
with angry messages in the days after he announced his decision.
More than 5,900 e-mails and printed notes have been sent to Perry about his
Feb. 2 executive order that girls entering the sixth grade in 2008 be
vaccinated against the human papilloma virus, which causes most cases of
The Associated Press obtained the majority of that correspondence last
month using the Texas Public Information Act and examined a portion of it.
Most of the letters voiced disapproval. Some Texans agreed with Perry's
goal of fighting cervical cancer, but said mandating the Gardasil vaccine
made by Merck & Co. wasn't the way to achieve it.
"Please, reconsider. Please, return parental choices, control, power to
parents," wrote Bette D. Bittner of Caldwell.
Ned Funnell of Longview also told Perry the decision to vaccinate belongs
to parents, not the state.
"Aside from endorsing sexual conduct in young girls, the requirement of
this vaccination is an invasion into the people's rights - it's one big
step towards big government," he said.
Perry has noted that parents can "opt out" of having their children
Republican legislators are pushing to pass a bill this session that would
override Perry's vaccine order. They argue that the Merck vaccine is too
new and unproven.
The volume of vaccine mail set no records within the governor's office.
Perry spokesman Ted Royer said the office received almost 31,000 pieces of
correspondence regarding proposed coal-fired power plants from November
through early January. All of it opposed the power plants, and about 24,000
of the messages were from out of state, Royer said.
Some of the anti-vaccine e-mail messages to Perry's office were sent from
different people but contained identical wording, indicating they were
likely part of an orchestrated letter-writing campaign.
That's common with issues of widespread interest, said Ted Royer, a
spokesman for Perry.
Royer said of the e-mails and letters on the vaccine received by the
governor's office as of Tuesday, 89 percent opposed his order, while 11
percent favored it.
"There are some issues that will generate near unanimous contact on one
side of an issue," Royer said.
Most of the e-mails and letters on the cervical cancer vaccine were from
Texans, with about 1,500 coming from out of state, he said.
The governor's office has a constituent services division that receives
letters and e-mails and responds to them. That division summarizes the
trend in the mail and provides the tallies to top aides to Perry.
Occasionally, correspondence is routed directly to Perry if it's from a
friend or acquaintance or is particularly noteworthy, Royer said.
In the cervical cancer vaccine mail, some Texans said they've always been
supportive of Perry, but that this action turned them away from him or his
Rhonda Hess of Conroe, who signed herself "a disappointed Texan," wrote
that the human papilloma virus, or HPV, can be prevented through use of a
"Why not hand out condoms to 9 year olds? Guess Merck wouldn't make much
money on a condom.... I deeply regret giving my vote to you in the last
election," Hess wrote.
Charles Tucker of La Marque alluded to recent gubernatorial challenger
Carole Keeton Strayhorn, an unsuccessful independent candidate who called
herself "one tough grandma."
"You have stepped in it again - big time," he wrote to Perry. "I now regret
that I didn't vote for the Grandmaw."
Among the favorable e-mail messages to Perry came from a woman who said she
has HPV and that she wishes she could have had the vaccine. She compared it
to the polio vaccine or any childhood immunization and said administering
the vaccine doesn't have "anything to do with religion or with sending a
signal for teens to have sex."
"If you can prevent 92% of women from getting Cervical Cancer then why
wouldn't you do it! Thank you!"
GARDASI VACCINE SHOULD BE PARENTS' CHOICE
Mar 07, 2007 09:56 AM
by Tonya Windell
Click here for the URL:
Lawmakers in more than 20 states, including Indiana and Kentucky, have
been hastily drafting legislation regarding a vaccine designed to protect
girls from the most common sexually transmitted disease.
The vaccine, Gardasil, prevents females from acquiring the human
papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. It was approved last
June by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. HPV is also associated with
several other types of cancer in both women and men. Merck & Co. is the
only manufacturer, and the cost for the three-dose vaccine is around $360
($120 for each dose).
Until recently, Merck had been lobbying governments to make the vaccine
mandatory for school attendance. The push has generated legislation in
numerous states for mandatory vaccination of girls as young as 9, before
they become sexually active, since most sexually active persons have
already been exposed to HPV. However, an advisory committee has recommended
the vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old girls.
Merck claims that Gardasil will prevent some types of cervical cancer since
Gardasil protects against some strains of HPV. It cannot block infection
with all HPV types that cause cervical cancer. It is also unknown as to how
long the vaccine will last, whether it be a few years or longer. Gardasil
should be marketed as an STD vaccine, not as prevention for cancer.
However, I doubt many parents would line up their children to get an STD
Luckily, legislation that has passed Indiana's Senate only requires
information to be sent home about HPV and that there is a vaccine for HPV.
The legislation is on its way to the House for consideration.
I am happy our Senate chose to scale down the legislation before they
approved it and not make the vaccine mandatory for young girls across the
state. Legislation that makes it mandatory, I believe, takes away a
parent's right but also the child's choice to get the vaccine, especially
when the side effects of the vaccine hasn't been studied for any lengthy
period of time. Who knows what disastrous side effects the vaccine could
have. I'm not sure if it is worth the risk.
Merck's lobbying for the vaccine to be mandatory in all young girls has
turned cervical cancer into a monstrous killer of women. Cervical cancer
kills less than 5,000 women in the United States annually, and most women
who develop it have not had regular pap smears, according to the Centers
for Disease Control. The CDC also lists the greatest risk factor for
cervical cancer as not getting screened and even lists it as a rare
disease. While I agree those deaths shouldn't be taken lightly, there are
many diseases that kill a lot more annually.
In the United States, heart disease is responsible for more than half a
million deaths annually. Other types of cancer kill a little more than
500,000 people and influenza kills more than 50,000 annually. However, we
are not making it mandatory to vaccinate children against the flu which
kills many more people each year than cervical cancer.
The AIDS virus is set to join heart disease and stroke in the next 25 years
as one of the top three leading causes of death. However, this country
isn't doing the best job at educating young people about this disease and
Since President George Bush has taken office, the federal government has
only provided funding for abstinence-only sex-education programs. Some
states have refused federal funding and provided comprehensive programs.
However, some haven't. Abstinence-only programs not only do not provide
youth with every choice available to them, but they also leave them empty
handed if they become sexually active. We need programs that present our
youth with each possibility, not just one choice.
If governments want to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and
prevent the cancers some of those diseases cause, they need to provide
comprehensive programs. Because in reality, some of those 11- and
12-year-old girls have already become sexually active, and they don't have
the information needed to make positive decisions about protecting themselves.
A vaccine against HPV to prevent cervical cancer isn't the only answer, and
only time will tell whether it is even an answer at all. However, I do know
there are many more damaging killers in the world that should be getting
the attention that Merck and Gardasil have brought to cervical cancer.
National Vaccine Information Center
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