Saturday, February 03, 2007

Rick Perry suffers bout of temporary sanity

Rick Perry, the recently re-elected governer of Texas, is a complete tool. The religious right owns him so thoroughly he might as well walk around wearing a dog collar and tags. This guy has such brazen, naked contempt for the concept of separation of church and state that he actually signed both an abortion bill and anti-gay marriage bill in a Fort Worth church. He's an unapologetic theocrat who isn't shy about letting you know you're a second class citizen if you don't flash your Jesus Fan Club membership card on command. Like a lot of people in his camp, he's even got his own Ted Haggard rumor, though unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any evidence to support it. (Though that didn't stop the production of this hilarious bumper sticker.)

But Perry has gone and done something shocking. He's actually gone against his Christian Taliban masters and issued an executive order requiring all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas to receive the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer.

Naturally, the anti-science fundie brigade is freaking out, because, in their quintessentially idiotic fashion, they have decided that the vaccine is not about preventing disease, but giving kids a licence for sexual promiscuity. Bimbette Cathie Adams of the Christian Right group Texas Eagle Forum reached this classically asinine conclusion: "Would they be more promiscuous? Chances are very good that they would be." Yeah, well, speak for yourself, Cathie. Don't you just love fundie "thinking"? In their world, every adolescent girl who gets this vaccine will suddenly experience an epiphany: "Wow! I'm innoculated against HPV now! And since things like my reputation or even my own common sense and personal tastes have never for one moment been an issue to me, this means I can go out and fuck everyone I see, starting with the high school janitor and working my way up through the whole football team and all the coaches."

Yeah, Cathie. Sixth grade girls have just been itchin' to put out like soda machines. And it's only been the lack of this vaccine that's held them back from their porn star aspirations.

As I've said before, fundamentalists just don't seem to understand people very much, do they?

It remains to be seen what political punishment the Christian Right will exact upon their bitch for peeing on the carpet like this. Still, it's rare when Perry does something that's not only supported by sound science, but that's actually for the good of the people of Texas he supposedly represents, and not just good for those clutching Bibles and scowling angrily. Perry's bout of sanity may be only temporary. But it's sure to have saved a number of girls' lives.


  1. Or maybe the governor has, um, ulterior motives? Feministing has a link to an article that points to HPV as the cause of penile cancer:

  2. I had a talk with my personal physician about this vaccine this past week. Apparently insurance companies are also holding it back, since they don't want to foot the bill for another vaccination, apparently. I guess they'd rather pay for cancer treatment down the road?

    Regardless, there's no positive reason to be against this vaccine. And the thought that some parents would rather see their daughters with cancer than with a vaccination is appalling. So anyone who has sex outside of the prescribed Xian fashion is deserving of cancer.

    Nice group of people.

  3. The Facts About GARDASIL

    1. GARDASIL is a vaccine for 4 strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), two strains that are strongly associated (and probably cause) genital warts and two strains that are typically associated (and may cause) cervical cancer. About 90% of people with genital warts show exposure to one of the two HPV strains strongly suspected to cause genital warts. About 70% of women with cervical cancer show exposure to one of the other two HPV strains that the vaccine is designed to confer resistance to.

    2. HPV is a sexually communicable (not an infectious) virus. When you consider all strains of HPV, over 70% of sexually active males and females have been exposed. A condom helps a lot (70% less likely to get it), but has not been shown to stop transmission in all cases (only one study of 82 college girls who self-reported about condom use has been done). For the vast majority of women, exposure to HPV strains (even the four "bad ones" protected for in GARDASIL) results in no known health complications of any kind.

    3. Cervical cancer is not a deadly nor prevalent cancer in the US or any other first world nation. Cervical cancer rates have declined sharply over the last 30 years and are still declining. Cervical cancer accounts for less than 1% of of all female cancer cases and deaths in the US. Cervical cancer is typically very treatable and the prognosis for a healthy outcome is good. The typical exceptions to this case are old women, women who are already unhealthy and women who don't get pap smears until after the cancer has existed for many years.

    4. Merck's clinical studies for GARDASIL were problematic in several ways. Only 20,541 women were used (half got the "placebo") and their health was followed up for only four years at maximum and typically 1-3 years only. More critically, only 1,121 of these subjects were less than 16. The younger subjects were only followed up for a maximum of 18 months. Furthermore, less than 10% of these subjects received true placebo injections. The others were given injections containing an aluminum salt adjuvant (vaccine enhancer) that is also a component of GARDASIL. This is scientifically preposterous, especially when you consider that similar alum adjuvants are suspected to be responsible for Gulf War disease and other possible vaccination related complications.

    5. Both the "placebo" groups and the vaccination groups reported a myriad of short term and medium term health problems over the course of their evaluations. The majority of both groups reported minor health complications near the injection site or near the time of the injection. Among the vaccination group, reports of such complications were slightly higher. The small sample that was given a real placebo reported far fewer complications -- as in less than half. Furthermore, most if not all longer term complications were written off as not being potentially vaccine caused for all subjects.

    6. Because the pool of test subjects was so small and the rates of cervical cancer are so low, NOT A SINGLE CONTROL SUBJECT ACTUALLY CONTRACTED CERVICAL CANCER IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM -- MUCH LESS DIED OF IT. Instead, this vaccine's supposed efficacy is based on the fact that the vaccinated group ended up with far fewer cases (5 vs. about 200) of genital warts and "precancerous lesions" (dysplasias) than the alum injected "control" subjects.

    7. Because the tests included just four years of follow up at most, the long term effects and efficacy of this vaccine are completely unknown for anyone. All but the shortest term effects are completely unknown for little girls. Considering the tiny size of youngster study, the data about the shortest terms side effects for girls are also dubious.

    8. GARDASIL is the most expensive vaccine ever marketed. It requires three vaccinations at $120 a pop for a total price tag of $360. It is expected to be Merck's biggest cash cow of this and the next decade.

    These are simply the facts of the situation as presented by Merck and the FDA.

    For a more complete discussion on GARDASIL with sources, click on my name.

  4. I have no objections to the vaccine, even given that it's much too early to assume it's THE cure. But I do have an objection to state-mandated innoculations for something that isn't a major public health threat. One more intrusion of government into the lives of families. A moment of sanity for the governor or a step further into the assumption of power?

  5. I confess to being baffled by objections to the vaccine on the grounds that HPV is not a "major public health threat". Tell that to someone who actually has cervical cancer. Do we have to have cancer victims dropping like ninepins in the streets before we decide to enact any preventative measures? And as for the "intrusion" aspect, well, that's why there's an opt-out.

    I didn't really see anything on Stickdog's site that led me to think giving these vaccines was a bad idea, and actually, most of the claims he makes in his numbered list aren't well sourced at all. One of the sources he does provide, the FDA page, indicates the vaccine has been shown to be effective on much more than Stickdog says it is. And as a general rule, I tend to be skeptical of complaints about greedy ol' Big Pharma, many of which often careen headlong into conspiracy theories.

    Perry said another thing today that's a rare case of my agreeing with him. If we're going to err, err on the side of saving lives.


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