Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is estimated to effect between 75% and 80% of all adults at some point during their life. Keeping in mind that there are many, many strains of the virus that can cause many different symptoms. The majority clear on their own and leave the human body without incident but a few other strains linger in the body and can be responsible for changes that can lead to cancer. HPV can be spread through skin to skin contact and is easy to pick up without sexual activity. Other strains are linked directly to sexual activity, and are spread through unprotected sexual contact and intercourse.
HPV is the same virus that causes genital warts in men and women. HPV is most common in younger generations–typically teens and early twenties. It is for this reason that the Gardasil vaccine, when released to the market in 2006 was marketed as a mini-miracle in the world of prevention. Merck, its maker, claims that the vaccine will save young women from cervical cancer. When in reality, we don’t need a shot to save our young women, but more responsible sexual practices to reduce infection rates. Teaching our youth that its okay to engage in risky behaviors simply because “we have a shot for that” is far from a miracle no matter how you look at it.
On the other edge of the sword are the complications from this one-time wonder drug that has left its manufacturer scrambling for ways to boost sales and promote confidence in its users again. Only about 30% of young girls who start the three shot series ever finish, and now Merck has been able to get the vaccine approved for boys–saying that the vaccine will prevent anal and penile cancers. Gardasil has faced a fury of criticism as one after one, teens and young adults across the U.S. and around the world have fallen victim to strange, sudden illnesses after getting the vaccine. Merck is adamant that the vaccine is safe, and continue to argue for its use–saying that the shot will save lives.
Many may not realize that Gardasil is not a lifetime vaccination–after the completion of the series, it is marketed to help prevent the four most common strains of HPV that lead to cervical cancer for five years. Five. That’s all. Ask the parent of any child who has suffered after a Gardasil vaccine and they will probably tell you that they took the shot at the urging of their family physician, or after seeing a well worded advertising campaign by the company to become “one less.”
Their daughters, who may not have been sexually active and therefore had little reason to even consider needing such a vaccine so early were only doing as they were told–or lead to believe was necessary. Merck and Gardasil have been presented as a giant band-aid for a much larger issue–improved sexual responsibly among America’s youth.
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