Blogging the HPV Debate

Does everyone really think this is a good idea?

By Christine Contillo, RN, BSN
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Even the ACIP has now come out in favor of vaccination for HPV. I find that there are few people willing to listen to my opinion, which is that while Gardasil may save a few American women from cervical cancer, it doesn’t warrant mandating a series of three vaccinations for every female in the 9 to 23-year-old category. However, the television ads are certainly slick and the idea of a vaccination for cancer is definitely intriguing. To be accurate, though, this is a vaccine against a virus, not a cancer. In fact, for most women this virus clears itself and doesn’t cause cancer, and the cancer that might be caused can be detected with an inexpensive pap smear.

Does anyone share that opinion?

Turning to the blogosphere for support I found it on She refers to a lengthy article in an obscure Midwest paper about Dr. Harper, one of the original Gardasil researchers, who disagrees heartily with the way that the vaccine is being marketed. Hmmmm. My antenna is up.

Then I found the December 4, 2006, post on which discusses the bill concerning this vaccine before the Michigan legislature. State governments just about everywhere are now considering making this vaccine mandatory for students, which is one way that insurance reimbursement becomes mandated.

In February, one of my trusted medical bloggers, Dr. Kevin Pho at posted a link to a CNN piece saying that doctors don’t want to stock or prescribe Gardasil because of the cost and because insurers are not yet reimbursing for it. This brought forth a slew of comments, including one by an anonymous medical student with a blog of his own containing many well thought out reasons for being wary of jumping onto the Gardasil bandwagon.

At least I’m not alone.

Reading all of this might make you wonder what other topics in women’s health are guided not only by the research but also by politics. For this you might want to check the daily updates of which is a site where “scholars and public policy analysts provide daily news and commentary on the implications of bioethical issues for women,” including the HPV vaccine, surrogate pregnancy, religion, morality, and health, and female genital mutilation.

Phew! There’s so much to know and the information increases exponentially every day. I need more coffee.

Christine Contillo, RN, BSN has worked as a nurse since 1979, and has written extensively for various nursing publications as well as the New York Times.

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