What the school pamphlets don’t tell you
by Donna Barker
In the 2008–2009 school year, B.C. schools began providing the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine free to girls in grades 6 and 9. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that typically has no symptoms and is one cause of cervical cancer.
I learned about the new “recommended childhood immunization” from my son and was upset to hear that many of the girls he hung out with were having the shot. I wanted to call every mother of every Grade 6 girl I knew and explain why I thought the HPV vaccine was a bad idea. But that might have isolated my own child as “the kid with a crazy mom.”
So, with the benefit of anonymity for my sweet son, let me tell all you mothers, grandmothers, and aunts of girls who have been, or soon will be, asked to have the HPV vaccine why to consider exempting your 11- or 14-year-old from the shot. (And if you have a boy child in your life, pay attention, since there’s talk of vaccinating boys against HPV in coming years.)
First of all, the ad campaigns for the vaccine have created a false sense of risk by shifting between the common virus and cancer. This creates the perception that HPV is as dangerous as cancer and that cancer is as common as HPV, says Kim Fink-Jensen, a UBC Master’s candidate focusing on medical anthropology.
Fink-Jensen analyzed HPV vaccine ads and found that they “were filled with the emotions of fear, shock, and panic, communicated through facial expressions and the language of the ad, which equate HPV infection with cervical cancer.”
She adds, “Fear of risk of cancer is further heightened by the mental habit of equating cancer with death. What’s lost is the fact that HPV is just one risk factor for the development of cervical cancer.”
How often is HPV actually connected to cervical cancer and death?
According to Dr. Kathleen Gartke, president of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, the organization responsible for Cervical Cancer Awareness week, “the new HPV vaccines may prevent up to 70 per cent of cases of cervical cancer in the future.”
Gartke adds: “The Canadian Cancer Society predicts that there will be 1,300 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Canada this year. The tragedy is, of course, that up to 90 per cent of these cases could be prevented through a Pap test for early diagnosis.”
While 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases being linked to HPV sounds high, the actual impact on the population is very small. With 1,300 cases of cervical cancer in a population of just over 16 million Canadian women, your daughter, granddaughter, or niece has a 0.00008 per cent chance of developing cervical cancer.
And Health Canada says that about 400 women die from cervical cancer each year. This translates into a mortality rate of 0.000025 per cent.
Also consider that the HPV vaccine is not risk-free. Judicial Watch (judicialwatch.org), a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group promoting transparency and accountability in government and politics, reported the vaccine has been directly linked to the deaths of between 18 and 20 American girls and women from heart problems and blood clots. Based on documents obtained from the Food and Drug Administration, the report also notes 140 serious reactions to the vaccine, including, since January of last year, 10 spontaneous abortions and one instance of a patient who fell into a coma.
Again, small numbers, but ones that the school pamphlets don’t mention.
So, the number one thing to consider when your girl-child comes home from school with a form to have the HPV vaccine is to book her in for her first Pap test. But only if she is sexually active.
In addition to offering your doctor a cervical scraping every two years, homeopathic solutions have proven highly effective as a natural alternative to immunizations of all kinds.
El Cecchetto, a homeopath with Access Natural Healing (access naturalhealing.com), explained how preventing HPV is no different than preventing any other disease.
“Like any virus, the flu for instance, we can be exposed to HPV but not develop the associated symptoms. What homeopathic treatment does is ensure your body is in balance and your immune system is functioning at a strong level, so even if you’re exposed to a virus, your body won’t allow it to express itself,” Cecchetto says.
And, in my opinion, if a pre-teen girl’s susceptibility to a sexually transmitted virus is zero, her situation does not require the HPV vaccine.
Although he’s often embarrassed by her candour about things moms shouldn’t talk about in public, Donna Barker’s son is grateful she is a vaccine skeptic.