more band-aids for cuts that need stitchesit's one of those crazy days - apparently i'm singing the tune of several groups of wrong-wingers, though not for the same reasons. and i've gotta say, i'm honestly a tad surprised at the lefty/progressive community's gung-ho-ness on this one. the hpv vaccine. mind you, this is coming from someone who is currently being monitored for the last three years worth of paps coming back showing low-grade abnormality. i had one surgery to remove cancerous cells at age 17. and it doesn't look like it's going away...
here's the 'sitch, taking away all of my other issues surrounding vaccines in general:
*this vax will only "protect" (maybe) against 4 out of the 127 strains of hpv. it isn't, from all accounts, 100% effective.
*merck won't be held accountable if problems arise in future years with their new wonder-vax... merck. where have i heard that name before? oh, yeah! vioxx induced heart attacks! and lookee here - apparently some problems with the vax have already been reported:
The early reports of potential safety problems with GARDASIL raise concerns and questions that need to be addressed by government regulators, manufacturers and prescribing physicians. Specifically, the following concerns need to be addressed*this has been touted as a life saver for low income girls that don't have insurance... hey! i have an idea! how about offering universal HEALTHCARE and INSURANCE so that young women can instead get regular checkups? from what i understand, there are no medical tests available for detecting hpv in men. (but i can't help but wonder - if there were, are we afraid that they'll know that have it and will go ahead and spread it anyway, knowing that it could cause cervical cancer? are we more concerned, with 70% of the population being infected, that reproduction could come to a standstill? as if it isn't bad enough that this culture is completely sexually repressed.)
Syncope, seizures and Guillian-Barre Syndrome have now been reported with hours to a week after GARDASIL vaccination. GARDASIL manufacturer, Merck, should add these serious adverse events to the product manufacturer insert.
Considering that over 20 girls have experienced syncopal episodes sometimes combined with seizures and serious injuries, physicians should consider only giving GARDASIL when the patient is safely laying down on the examining table. Because there seems to be syncopal reactions up until 15 minutes after vaccination, patients should be asked to lie down for 15 minutes after receipt of GARDASIL.
The information provided by Merck indicates that it is safe to administer GARDASIL with Hepatitis B vaccine. The prescribing information states, “Results for clinical studies indicate that GARDASIL may be administered concomitantly (at a separate injection site) with hepatitis B vaccine (recombinant). Co-administration of GARDASIL with other vaccines has not been studied.”  Due to the small number of girls aged 9 to 15 who appear to have been evaluated for GARDASIL safety in Merck clinical trials (fewer than 2,000) and lack of publicly available information about how many of these girls were given GARDASIL and hepatitis B vaccine simultaneously, the safety of administering GARDASIL and hepatitis B vaccine to all pre-adolescent girls is uncertain.
Aside from Hepatitis B, Merck does not state that it is safe to simultaneously administer GARDASIL with any other vaccine. Considering that there are ongoing evaluations of a reported association between Menactra (meningococcal vaccine) and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and Merck does not explicitly indicate that it is safe to administer to administer GARDASIL and Menactra simultaneously, consumers and clinicians should question whether administering both GARDASIL and Menactra at the same time is safe.
Similarly, adverse reactions were reported when GARDASIL was administered with eight other vaccines: Hepatitis A, MNQ (?), MEN (Menactra), TD (Tetanus and Diptheria Toxoids), DPP (Diptheria/Pertussis/Polio), PNC Prevnar (Heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate), DTaP (Diphtheria And Tetanus Toxoids and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine), and TDAP (Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis). Because Merck does not state that it is safe to administer simultaneously GARDASIL with any vaccine other than Hepatitis B, consumers and clinicians should question whether co-administration of GARDASIL and other vaccines is safe.
Most, if not all, of the reactions reported to VAERS were in response to the first of the three doses of GARDASIL. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS) developed for HPV vaccine states that severe reactions include “any unusual condition, such as a high fever or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness.”  The CDC also states that “anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to yeast, to any other component of HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine should not get the vaccine.” Which of the reactions reported to VAERS constitute a “life-threatening allergic reaction” and which, if any, of the children and young adults who experienced reactions should receive additional doses of vaccine? At the October 2006 ACIP meeting, CDC staff stated that only “three serious reports were reported to VAERS after HPV vaccination in females 14 and 16 years of age. One of these patients had vasovagal syncope and was hospitalized overnight for observation.” CDC’s summary of the first 76 VAERS reports suggests that CDC doesn’t regard the remaining reports as “serious.” CDC needs to clarify which of the reactions reported to VAERS constitute contraindications to further vaccination with GARDASIL and make this information available to the public and to prescribing physicians.
What were the short and longer-term outcomes for the individuals who experienced the reactions reported to VAERS? Is there information available that would help to predict the characteristics that predispose one to be at greatest risk of experiencing a serious reaction?
The CDC’s Vaccine Information Sheet indicates that allergy to yeast is a reason to avoid taking GARDASIL. Merck notes that contraindications to the vaccine include “hypersensitivity to the active substances or to any of the excipients of the vaccine. Individuals who develop symptoms indicative of hypersensitivity after receiving a dose of GARDASIL should not receive further doses of GARDASIL.” The prescribing information provided by Merck does not specifically note that yeast allergy is a contraindication to taking GARDASIL. Government regulators and the manufacturer need to address the discrepancy between these documents and clarify the issues related to yeast allergy and make this information readily available to the public and prescribing physicians.Additionally, Merck notes that vaccine ingredients include 225 mcg of aluminum (as amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate adjuvant), 0.78 mg of L-histidine, 50 mcg of polysorbate 80, and 35 mcg of sodium borate. These ingredients are not listed on the CDC’s VIS sheet. The public needs this information so that they can identify whether they have “hypersensitivities” to any of the ingredients and whether they are at risk of experiencing a serious allergic reaction. Hypersensitivities and known allergic reactions are critical pieces of information that need to be communicated to prescribing physicians in order to make the safest possible vaccination decisions…
rest of article here.
*3,700 women die each year from cervical cancer. it is said that 1/2 of the women diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer haven't had a recent pap test. wait. i guess that goes back to health care point too. but how many women die from other diseases? 489,000 will die from heart disease. heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in america, hands down. where's the vaccine for that?
*the biggest thing that gets me? the almost victim blaming feel to the whole debate. it isn't as if you catch hpv by opening a door after someone else that is infected sneezes on it and you rub your eye.
IT IS BEING SPREAD PRIMARILY BY MEN. so why should women be forced (granted, i'm assuming there will be an opt-out option that no one will know about much like the other vaccines, but still...) to have a potentially harmful vaccination that will expire by the time they reach the age where they will become sexually active? boosters for life? where is the role of men in all of this, beyond they don't like to wear condoms, 'cause it doesn't "feel right"?
it's probably somewhere around here: speaking of victim blaming, i read a fantastic piece today over on alternet. the author claims that, "blasting women with warnings about getting drunk in public does little to help them and sidesteps men's responsibility for sexual assault." i have to agree.
In 1992, while I was an undergraduate, I was raped by a fellow student while we were both drunk. He was not a date. I didn't even like him when we were sober. But we were at a party together, a party at which I tried too hard to "keep up" with my friends in the alcohol department and wound up far more drunk than I wanted to be. So I went back to my room. And he followed me. And then he raped me.
Looking back, I can imagine a number of social or institutional interventions which might have helped prevent this attack from happening. But none of them includes the approach that so many articles on this subject take, which is to "raise awareness" among young women that getting drunk in public puts them at greater risk of exploitation and sexual assault.
Why is this an impotent approach? For all the same reasons abstinence-only education does nothing to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (and may even contribute to it).
Very few people of any age or gender go out and drink enough to get drunk thinking it's a responsible thing to do. However true it may be that it's safer not to get drunk (approximately 70 percent of rapes among college students involve alcohol or drug use), it's not like young women don't already hear about the risks from parents, college administrations, the nightly news, or any of the 25 "CSI" or "Law and Order" clones on TV.
In fact, for many young people of all genders, drinking is a form of rebellion, appealing exactly because of all the warnings that come along with it.
Three Positive Steps
So what would have worked? No one can say for sure, but here are three things that would have given me a fighting chance:
1. Hold boys and men responsible.
Let's look a little more closely at that correlation between rape and alcohol. That's not a correlation between female drinking and rape. It's a correlation between all drinking and rape. In fact, studies have shown that it's more likely that a male rapist has been drinking than that his female victim has. So if we want to raise awareness about the links between drinking and rape, we should start by getting the word out to men that alcohol is likely to impair their ability to respond appropriately if a sexual partner says "no." When was the last time you read that article in any kind of publication?
The silence around men's drinking is, of course, part of a much larger "boys will be boys" culture, one which played a large part in my assault. The party I attended was for a men's sports team; the coaches provided the alcohol. Try to imagine them doing that for a women's sports team.
This is the very culture that supports acquaintance rape to begin with, the very culture feminists have been working to dismantle for decades. Holding boys and men accountable is no quick fix. But when we discuss drinking and rape and neglect to shine the light on men's drinking, we play into the same victim-blaming that makes it so easy for men to rape women in the first place.
Similarly, we should be teaching men that the best way to avoid becoming a rapist is to seek positive consent, as opposed to just leaving it up to a woman to say "no."
Meanwhile, there are some things we should be doing to keep ourselves safe in the short term, including:
2. Promote a more sophisticated, pleasure-affirming message.
This means going beyond advocating "abstinence."
Yes, tell young women that when it comes to preventing sexual violence, not drinking is safer than drinking.
But stop there, and you're setting up a false and impossible choice between sobriety and rape. Drinking can be a lot of fun, both chemically and socially, and most of us will choose immediate pleasure over the abstract risk of violence or death, at least some of the time. Plus, the more adults warn against something, the more appealing it is as an act of rebellion.
Give All the Information
Instead, let's try the safer sex education approach: Treat young women as people who can make informed decisions by giving them all the information. A message that might sound something like this:
a. The safest thing to do is not to drink at all.
b. If you decide to drink, it's safer to do it in moderation and-or in the company of a friend you trust to look out for you. (Not just someone you know. Nearly 80 percent of rape victims know their attackers.)
c. For the times you may choose to get properly sauced, or your friend turns out to be not as reliable as you'd hoped, and for times you may be sober and need to know anyhow, learn how to defend yourself against sexual coercion and assault.
Which brings us to:
3. Teach widespread, effective self-defense skills to women and girls.
I never even tried to shove that guy off of me, something that I now know I could have easily done, even drunk, even if he was bigger than me, which honestly, he wasn't. But it never occurred to me there was anything I could do physically to protect myself. Why? Not because I was drunk. Because literally no one my whole life had told me that my body could work in my own defense (and many, many messages had told me to the contrary).
Women Can Use Their Own Bodies
And yet it's true; women and girls can keep themselves safe using our very own bodies. No pepper spray. No whistles. Even women who don't work out, or are "overweight" or are physically impaired.
It both is and isn't mystifying why more women don't know this.
The parts of our culture that rely on violence against women as a tool to keep everyone "in their place" work hard to keep us from knowing.
But women often play a role in this unknowing, whether out of discomfort with the process involved in learning, fear that it may work for others but not us, and other complex reasons. (For more on this phenomenon, read Anastasia Higginbotham's excellent article "Kicking and Shrugging -- Why do we resist self-defense?" in Bitch magazine.)
Regardless of this resistance, we must all learn how to defend ourselves and insist that our schools and other public institutions teach all girls and women the same skills and not just for our own safety. Because the most practical way to reduce the risk of rape for all women is to create a culture in which the rapist has to worry that he'll get hurt.
(sicely sue is still raising money for home alive over at her place... if you're so inclined, stop over and kick her down a few bucks. use your money for good, not evil. she only is lacking a couple hundred more bucks. yay!!!)
my fear in all of this is that quick "fixes," such a vaccinating against hpv and telling women not to drink too much in public is pulling our attentions away from where they should be, and placing a blame in a place where it doesn't solely belong... both of these issues are often framed as women's issues - but in reality, aren't they equally, if not more, men's issues?
pass the band-aids.
and lastly - there's a new flick out about nader i was just hipped to. looks interesting! i saw him speak a couple of times in '99 when i worked on his campaign - he was such an inspiring speaker!!!