Gardasil: Whom should we believe?


gardasil_s640x427.jpgThis week's lectures have really caught my attention. The controversial topic of vaccinations and their effects have caused me to consider both sides of the argument. Most people of our generation have been vaccinated at a young age and are perfectly healthy today. There is plenty of evidence to show that vaccines work. As for the question of safety, there has been inadequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. We learned that this is hard to explain; for people want to know without question that something is safe and effective.

Andrew talked about how powerful an anecdote can be to the rationale of a concerned population. We are led to believe that certain outcomes are more significant than the research that science has done in an attempt to rule out the null hypothesis. But sometimes, it can be hard to ignore the stories and events we see and hear in the media. For example, a column in The Washington Times communities section boasts the headline, "US Court pays $6 million to Gardasil victims."  The column begins with a warning--the vaccine for HPV may not be as safe as backers claim.  The author continues to present statistics from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) that illustrates the amount of claims that have been made and adjudicated, 49 of 200, to be exact.  The Judicial Watch, an educational foundation that performs investigations to ensure ethics and morality, announced that, "This new information from the government shows that the serious safety concerns about the use of Gardasil have been well-founded. Public health officials should stop pushing Gardasil on children." In addition, the article states that the adverse reaction reports detail 26 new deaths reported between September 1st 2010 and September 15th 2011, as well as a multitude of other maladies. In response, the Centers for Disease Control insists, "There was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine." Even so, the thought of this can be scary.

If you read some of the comments left on the article, it is clear that the audience has bought into the anecdotal argument against the vaccine.  Sometimes irrationality and emotion play into others' beliefs about its safety. One woman states, "I'm so glad I read this, I had been on the fence about getting this vaccine for my daughter..." and another, "Merck. The makers of Vioxx. Another deadly drug whose side effects were hidden during testing..."Can we really believe all that we see on the Internet, and take it for fact?  Looking at the credibility of the source, it may be more believable if this article were to be written by the CDC itself, rather than a contributor to a news website.

So, should everyone get the Gardasil vaccine? It can be difficult to make decisions about important topics such as vaccination, but it seems that the benefit of protection against HPV would outweigh any potential risks. Do articles like this affect your opinion on the vaccine?



I was also intrigued by this lecture in class and caused me too think about this vaccine. Let's start out by saying that I'm a guy and I always thought that Gardasil was only for women up until a few years ago when I was asked by my doctor if I wanted to get the vaccine. I didn't know exactly what the vaccine was and at first I was insulted that he asked me if I wanted to take a vaccine that was only for girls. The decision wasn't up to me, it was up to my mom and so I had to take the series of HPV vaccines. The lecture taught me exactly what the vaccine was for and really did shed some light on what I had been vaccinate against. What I thought was the most interesting thing is how many of us will get a string of HPV in our lifetime.

I think it's very clear that the benefits of getting vaccinated with Gardasil far outweigh any of the potential risks. I haven't been vaccinated yet, but after Andrew's lecture I plan to be.

I believe people are more likely to believe anecdotes because they are powerful and the people who are saying/relaying them are extremely emotional. It's easy to believe someone who's passionate about what they believe versus someone who knows facts but doesn't put any kind of emotional twist on them.

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