Let's Talk About Talking About HPV

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


In a recent opinion piece in The New York TimesDr.Paul Offit asked: "How do we separate "the sex talk" from the first dose of HPV vaccine?" The professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, talks about why HPV vaccination rates are so low despite the risk of dangerous cancers and what doctors can do about it. Plus: what it means that New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has announced that she has HPV. 


Dr. Paul A. Offit

Comments [18]

will dale from Brooklyn NY

teen vaccine? how about for 40 somethings who are HPV free, sexually active and would like to stay that way?

does the vaccine work on middle aged or the elderly?

Aug. 26 2014 06:53 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

John from Chelsea - Men are, scientifically speaking, vectors for HPV. That means they spread it in larger numbers than women do in the population; the statistics also say they don't as often contract cancers from exposure, but they ARE at risk for oral, throat and other cancers, yes--and that is based on both different and from same-sex partners.

You can have a blood screen for HPV at your GP's office. The City Department of Health (there's a facility on Ninth Avenue in the 20s) also screens for it.

Susan from NYC - it's a fallacy to suggest that getting either HPV jab series will "prevent" a young woman from having to undergo those procedures. You may feel it would have done so for yourself, but don't advocate for those whose bodies and health you don't know.

Aug. 26 2014 11:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

To those who say using a condom is the answer or think getting vaccinated is a license to have sex, a woman can be a virgin when she gets married & completely faithful afterward, if the same isn't true of her husband, she can get HPV (& other STDs) from him. And if they want children, they'll be having sex w/no condom. Then there's the possibility, God forbid, that she could be raped.

Aug. 26 2014 11:51 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

It's not about cancer--it's about sex. And when American parents face that, the right dialogue will happen, because neither vaccine is going to "prevent" anyone from develop cervical cancer from HPV cells that overcome one's immunity. And that conversation isn't simply about coital sex; HPV is easily spread via oral/oral and oral/genital contact--and teens, statistically-speaking, begin experimenting younger than their parents often know.

But Merck et al have done their homework; they know parents here are not ready to have that conversation with a 9 or 11-year old girl or boy. Parents should know that the original recommendation from researchers was for girls AND boys get the jab at 9 years; American companies decided if they positioned this as Cervical Cancer Prevention, they'd get uptake from parents, and nudged the initial age back. That's misleading. And that's too bad--because, scientifically speaking, boys are the vectors for the disease. And this pediatrician guest on the show isn't presenting one of the most salient points for parents to consider: one can have the virus (and various strains of it) many times over in their lives and never have it develop into cervical cancer. But hey--he gets fees for the office visit, the expensive series of jabs and warm fuzzies from his pharma reps for prescribing it.

I now have two friends whose teen girls have been hospitalized for weeks after their first or second jab of the vaccine, with life-threatening symptomology. One was in the ICU for weeks in pulmonary failure. Both took from a couple of months to a year off attending high school to recover from the effects of the vaccine. As both were super-healthy JV athletes with distinct plans to go to college on scholarships (and were kept from fulfilling their roles on teams), they made radical changes to their lives as a result, to say nothing of their parents bearing the expense associated with the hospital stays.

Their communities rallied around these girls, and the parents are telling anyone who'd listen to reconsider getting this vaccine. They're angry at themselves for not researching the jab more, but our love affair with the white coat of medical personnel often overcomes reason.

Was Viverito right to post her HPV status on Twitter? It was an unfortunate p.r. decision, because it was alarmist and misleading.

Aug. 26 2014 11:48 AM
30-year-old woman from NYC

When you get screened for STIs, they only test for the 4 cancer-causing strains-- since there are hundreds of "harmless" strains, it's not a good use of resources for doctors to test for the innocuous strains. So, if that caller's daughter knows she has HPV, it's almost a guarantee it's one of the cancer-causing strains.

As for men, my understanding is that they generally can pass it on to new partners, but it doesn't have much of a detrimental impact on them directly.

Aug. 26 2014 11:43 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I'm sure it's safer than the ordinary birth control pills.

Aug. 26 2014 11:42 AM

“The real issue is: what is the benefit of this vaccine? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? There is a risk of a seizure disorder or an autoimmune disorder versus the benefit that it might reduce cervical cancer. But Gardasil doesn’t eliminate the need for regular Pap testing, which is already safe, and there isn’t good evidence that it prevents cervical cancer.

Aug. 26 2014 11:39 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I think in a way there's a drawback to the fact that the 1st vaccines (against smallpox & polio) were so successful. It raised the expectation that all vaccines would be nearly 100% effective, & then when they're "only" mostly effective, many people think it's not worth getting vaccination.

Aug. 26 2014 11:38 AM
Marisa from Chelsea

I'm a huge fan of this show. But I think you are missing a lot of information about the DANGERS of this vaccine!
And I am not speaking as an ill-informed Sarah Palin! Please look at this article with warnings from wddty because what this doctor is telling you is NOT correct. The vaccine is dangerous and NOT fully effective
Wouldn't it be better to protect your children from ALL sexually transmitted diseases AND pregnancy
but telling them to USE A CONDOM!!!!

Aug. 26 2014 11:35 AM

Gardasil was on FDA fast track approval and underwent a mere six months of trial research. When criticized for their aggressive marketing, Merck countered that they were performing a public service by raising awareness about the human papillomavirus and weren’t selling anything.[2] Really?

This lie became public as Merck was caught lobbying the 50 states for mandatory Gardasil vaccination before it had even secured FDA approval![3] The fact is that there was never a need for Gardasil in the first place: regular Pap testing had already lowered the incidence of cervical cancer by 80% in the US to a few thousand cases a year and the vast majority of all HPV infections resolve of their own accord.[4]

Aug. 26 2014 11:34 AM
Judy Stanley

How do we know the vaccine is safe in the long term? I'm reluctant to let my daughters be guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry.

Aug. 26 2014 11:34 AM
john from Chelsea, NY

Are there any risks for men who might be infected?
Is there a way for a man to find out whether they are carrying HPV?

Aug. 26 2014 11:32 AM
30-year-old woman from NYC

I have irregular pap smears indicating that I have already contracted one form of the cancer-causing HPV strains and I STILL got the vaccine (when I was 26). It was a huuuuuuuge battle with my insurance company to get them to pay, but I fought and won in the hopes that it will protect me against the other three strains.

Aug. 26 2014 11:32 AM
Susan from NYC

I was diagnosed with HPV when I was about 24. I have had to go through a leep procedure as well as have more frequent pap smears to make sure that the HPV is not causing an issue on my cervix.

All girls should get this vaccine. The multiple gyn appointments, the leep procedure - they are uncomfortable, and something that causes anxiety - waiting for results...

Just do it! If I had had the option, my life would have been much improved for the past 15 years!

Aug. 26 2014 11:32 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

We have in our hands the ability to ELIMINATE a source of cancer and we're not taking it! What are we dumb! It costs $400!! I think we can do without 4 JSF-35's and innocculate 10,000,000 kids instead.

Aug. 26 2014 11:31 AM

Gardasil and Cervarix—what is discovered should shake the pro-vaccine paradigm to its very foundations. What we find is a trail of permanent injury, neurological disorders and death. And behind that we discover political and private obfuscation, cover ups, lies, distortions and no apologies from either government or the pharmaceutical industry. There is no desire by any government agency, corporation or leading medical institution to seek the truth. This article provides but a glimpse into how sorted and perverse the entire vaccination system has become by using the HPV vaccines as just one example.
Relying upon the data from the CDC’s, Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), the vaccine watch organization Sanevax determined that, since Gardasil’s launch in 2006 until November 2012, the HPV vaccine was linked to 121 deaths and over 27,485 medical injuries of young girls, some as young as 11 years old. At the end of last year, the number rose to over 30,000 serious injuries and over 150 deaths. Unfortunately, only a fraction of vaccine adverse events reported by pediatricians, physicians, medical clinics and hospitals, make their way into the VAERS database. Few parents even know such a reporting system exists.

Aug. 26 2014 11:31 AM
Jay from NYC

Can HPV be responsible for oral, throat, esophageal,and anal cancers?
Does the vaccine protect against those as well as cervical cancers?

Aug. 26 2014 11:30 AM

Effective? Where is the study? Safe?
HPV Vaccines: Unnecessary and Lethal by Gary Null, Ph.D. and Richard Gale

Aug. 26 2014 11:29 AM

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