Vaccines are not a Cure for Societal Avoidance of all things sexual

March 10th, 2007

Below, is the letter I sent to the NY Times (not published) when they endorsed the vaccine in their editorial section. Science dictates a much broader period of observation before conclusions are reached about the safety and long-term efficacy of a vaccine. By existing standards of vaccine marketing, (however questionable those might be), this vaccine may indeed be ready to be dispensed to a wider consumer base.This brings us to the question about why so many are calling for it to be mandated for eleven year old girls at this time. The simple answer often given is ‘economics’ or the lobbying intended to bring great profits to the vaccine industry. This may explain the marketing strategy of the manufacturer but doesn’t account for the strong legislative and grass roots advocacy calling for making the vaccine mandatory. I believe that issue is far removed from the scientific realm and squarely placed within the U.S. cultural framework, which is highly alarmed by all sexually related disease processes.

Mandating a medical procedure for pre-pubescent girls, in order to control aspects of risk from later sexual activity, allows society to avoid openly addressing issues involving sexuality in the pre-teen and early teen years. An eleven year old girl is not going to be participating in the debate as would a sixteen year old. Under the proposed scenario of mandatory vaccination, the normal sixteen year old who is becoming sexually active, will already be facing her second round of immunizations for HPV, (if it is only effective for five years). This removes any necessity for dialogue about the underlying issues and presentation of choices which naturally accompany a voluntary vaccine program.

After all, if the science is borne out by the positive experiences of teenagers of 15 or 16 choosing to have the immunization, it would eventually become as normal to do so as it is to have gynecological exams. The frightening aspect of this is that it will be administered to children who have yet to have their first gynecological exam or even their first menstrual cycle. This speaks to society’s needs for keeping sexual behavior ‘underground’, with the responsibility for it’s risks to be placed on women’s shoulders. This is similar to attitudes about birth control, AIDS (ignored for so long because of attitudes towards male sexual activity with other males) etc. My letter explores the options for education prior to children reaching the age where informed consent can be given by them and in consultation with appropriate medical specialists such as gynecologists rather than pediatricians. Since letters to the editor of the NY Times have to be under 150 words, you will have to forgive the brevity.

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Re: NY Times editorial, “A Necessary Vaccine” (2/26/07)

To the Editor;

Forced vaccination for HPV denies half the population their right to choose among the options available for protection. It also ignores the crucial role of educating both genders in the joint responsibilities of engaging in sexual activity.

Mandatory vaccination assumes that all girls will either choose, or be forced, to have sex at a very young age. Why then, isn’t the Times calling for compulsory sex education in the schools and access to free clinics offering exams, optional vaccines and quality counseling regarding sexual activity and safety? The NIH recently determined that condoms are effective barriers for HPV. Education and access to such products would reduce the incredibly large burden that allSTDs place upon the health care system, without further compromising women’s’ rights to bodily privacy.

The violation of a body can also take place with a needle, its chemical constituents and their unknown, long-term effects for pubescent girls.

Barbara Rubin, M.A.

Norwich, Vt.

Categories: Letters, NY Times

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