The five things you need to know about the HPV debate
Gardasil is one of the FDA-approved vaccines to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
September 14th, 2011
02:18 PM ET

The five things you need to know about the HPV debate

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that parents have their middle-school-aged daughters vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease closely linked to cervical cancer.

The human papillomavirus is the most common STD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the second leading cause of female cancer mortality worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There are currently two FDA-approved vaccines - Gardasil and Cervarix - to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.  While each vaccine uses different substances to rev up the immune system, both are given as shots and must be received in three doses over a six-month period, according to the manufacturers.

That's nothing new.

1. So, why is there such a debate swirling around the issue? Well, politics.

You've probably seen headlines about the HPV vaccine for years now, so what's new? A bigger spotlight, essentially, and the vaccine has come up amid jockeying for the GOP presidential nomination.

The debate over the use of the HPV vaccine - and specifically how it is given and who can mandate it - became a hot topic after some tense exchanges during Monday’s CNN/Tea Party GOP debate.

GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann challenged one of her rivals for the Republican nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on his 2007 executive order that would have required Texas schoolgirls to receive vaccinations against HPV. Bachmann suggested the governor acted for political reasons, noting that the maker of Gardasil - the only Food and Drug Administration-approved HPV vaccine at the time – contributed to his campaigns, and that his former chief of staff lobbies for the company. She also said the drugmaker, Merck & Co., stood to make millions of dollars because of the order.

Truth Squad: Was Bachmann's claim about Perry's mandate for political reasons true?

Bachmann’s challenge came as candidates discussed the pros and cons of executive orders, and when and how the president should use one.

Perry said during the debate that if he could do it over again, he wouldn’t use an executive order, but would work with the legislature.

2. OK, wait. What actually happened in Texas?

Since 2006, 19 state legislatures have attempted to pass legislation that would mandate HPV shots for school, after the CDC recommended that parents be advised that the shot was a good idea and a way of preventing cervical cancer.

Perry took that one step further. In February 2007, he signed an executive order directing the state Health and Human Services commissioner to mandate HPV vaccinations for all girls before admission to the sixth grade. Perry at the time released a statement saying that the vaccine "provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer.”

Texas' rules were to take effect in September 2008. However, the Texas Legislature passed a bill overturning Perry's order in April 2007. Perry declined to veto the bill, which went into effect in May 2007, killing his order.

3. Politics aside, what are the health concerns?

We've been vaccinating kids - by mandate - for school for years.  And for all of those vaccines, parents have the ability to opt out. Again, that's nothing new.

But public perception is changing.

The debate over vaccinations picked up steam after concerns and arguments over whether childhood vaccinations were linked to autism or other diseases became another hot topic. Some were quick to warn of harmful side effects. And then, some medical journals retracted studies linking the two.

Many advocates against vaccinations still said that not enough was known and stood by the idea that there was a connection.

During Monday’s debate, much of the brouhaha over the HPV vaccine centered more on how Perry approached the issue than the vaccine itself. After the debate, Bachmann did touch on whether the vaccine was safe: She said parents told her that the vaccine had made their children sick.

But when it comes to the HPV vaccine, the CDC breaks it down pretty easy: It is safe and can go a long way in preventing a deadly cancer. The CDC says studies of the vaccine "showed no serious side effects," but "common, mild side effects included pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea." The CDC has said that if you get sick after the shot, it's a coincidence, not cause and effect, CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reports.

Then there's the issue about the age of vaccination.

Middle school children are the targets of the vaccine, and there are some concerns about whether they should be vaccinated at an age when many may not be sexually active. And in some conservative areas, there is concern that the vaccine might encourage children to have sex at an earlier age.

4. So what do the vaccines do?

The FDA has licensed two HPV vaccines recommended by the CDC: Cervarix and Gardasil.

So what are the similarities? According to the CDC:

■ Both vaccines are very effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers. So both vaccines prevent cervical cancer in women.

■ Both are very safe.

■ Both are made with very small parts of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cannot cause infection

■ Both are given as shots and require three doses.

And what are the differences? According to the CDC:

■ Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) protects against HPV types 6 and 11 - the types that cause most genital warts in females and males.

■ Only Gardasil has been tested and licensed for use in males.

■ Only Gardasil has been tested and shown to protect against cancers of the vulva, vagina and anus.

■ The vaccines have different adjuvants, substances that are added to increase the body's immune response.

(You can read more about HPV and the vaccines from the CDC here.)

5. Where do things currently stand across the country with regard to the vaccine?

Of the 19 states that tried to pass legislation mandating vaccination for children to attend school, only two passed the legislation. (You can see a full list of the attempted bills in each state here.)

Only Virginia and Washington, D.C., have passed measures to require the mandate. In Virginia, the legislature tried to reverse the mandate. The state's House passed the reversal, but the bill was killed in a Senate committee, so the mandate still stands.

Even there, where this is a mandate, it appears that more families are choosing to opt out of the program than to take part in it.

"Just 17.3 percent of eligible girls had received the first of three vaccinations, as envisioned by the law, at the start of this school year," according to Rosalind S. Helderman, writing for The Washington Post in February. "Only 23 percent of this year's eligible sixth-graders in the District have received the vaccine."

soundoff (736 Responses)
  1. suttonmom

    The only thing this debate is really about is money. Perry used is office to mandate a shot which would enrich his pharmaceutical friends. If you live in Texas, you know this is business as usual in the Perry administration. You can expect more of the same if he wins the Presidency.

    September 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Karen

    i was diagnosed a week before these vaccines were produced... i was crushed...i was too late. =( it makes no sense to quarrel over somehting like this, if its to protect AGAINST HPV then do it, in the better cause of spreading it. an males also carry hpv, so they should get the shot ex's mother had hpv and it was coaaried onto him through the birth canal, he passed it to me and countless other woman he dated and or slept i think if its in the best interest of trying to discontinue an std being spread, its a good idea. but this is only my opinion..

    September 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • How much control should drug companies have?

      I agree. But I don't think that's the point. There's growing concern about drug companies role in our health. Can they use an executive order to make us put a drug or vaccine in our body? And you can't just blindly trust them because they are doctors running around with (usually population based) research papers. Should drug companies/equipment manufacturers be allowed to set guidelines...knowing that doing that means the machine will probably get paid for, but it it that useful? does it even find what it is supposed to be looking for? mammogram missed mine. and it wasn't operator error and it wasn't dense tissue. and colonoscopies...depends on your insurance whether you get the one that works or the cheaper one that might not catch it.

      There are a LOT of serious questions coming up in health care over things like this. Who has a right to see/use your medical record? Your boss? How many organizations are fronts for the medical profession that get you to call your congressperson to vote the way they think you should? does that benefit you, or some medical have to ask yourself (they aren't going to tell you)? make no care is a business.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tnmtl

    Why are these dimwits debating this? Why is this an issue? According to them, the country is crumbling and they continue to debate stupid things and tell us how much they love god. Could the Greedy Old Pinheads PLEASE come up with some better candidates???

    September 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    What vaccine makers should do is just invent versions that allow recipients to be symptomless carriers .. meaning they'll never get measles themselves, they'll just infect every vaccine denier they come in contact with.

    September 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |

      That's funny! A little @$%&ed up, but still funny!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Wow Mike, you are a moron. You realize that people who aren't vaccinated can be "symptomless" and be immune for life? Bet you didn't, because of your moronic statement.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The bottom line!

    (1) This vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer! How is that a bad thing?
    (2) Bachmann made up that sh!t about it causing mental retardation.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ardis

      As to making it up, I think you are giving her too much credit.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Republican

    The obvious answer to this problem is to lower taxes on the corporate wealthy.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Aezel

    "the HPV Debate" ???? There is no "debate" amongst those who know how to use their brain. The "debate" only exists amongst morons like Bachmann. Here's a clue Michele: Guardasil didn't make you retarded, you accomplished that on your own.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |

      That's priceless!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Carol

    Over 60 healthy young women have died from this vaccine- and many more have developed debilitating disabilities soon after receiving it.
    While Michelle may not have all her facts correct- there is a lot of concerns about it.

    Parents and women should have the right to choose to receive it or not

    September 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • I call BS!

      The only problem with your comment is that you completely made it up. Oh yeah..... you're also an idiot!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Igor

      "Over 60 healthy young women have died from this vaccine- and many more have developed debilitating disabilities soon after receiving it."

      There hasn't been a single confirmed incident of death from gardacil and its reported side effects are still a better risk to take then the chance of contracting HPV leading to cervical cancer. I know you don't have a shred of proof that the vaccine is as harmful as you claim. I can make up unsupported claims too, thousands of people died after using their computer, therefore computers are harmful, everyone, RUN. The funny part is that my made up statement is still way more in the ballpark than your figures.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • I call BS!

      The HPV Cervarix vaccine has been in use around the world for several years and has been very safe.
      However, any medicine could possibly cause a serious problem, such as a severe allergic reaction. The risk of any vaccine causing a serious injury, or death, is extremely small.
      Life-threatening allergic reactions from vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it would be within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
      Several mild to moderate problems are known to occur with this HPV vaccine. These do not last long and go away on their own.
      Reactions where the shot was given
      Pain (about 9 people in 10)
      Redness or swelling (about 1 person in 2)
      Other mild reactions
      Fever of 99.5 or higher degrees Fahrenheit (about 1 person in 8
      Headache or fatigue (about 1 person in 2)
      Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain (about 1 person in 4)
      Muscle or joint pain (up to 1 person in 2)
      Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. Tell your doctor if the patient feels dizzy or light-headed, or has vision changes or ringing in the ears.
      Like all vaccines, HPV vaccines will continue to be monitored for unusual or severe problems.

      States, and there have been 15,037 Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports following the vaccination. Ninety-two percent were reports of events considered to be non-serious (e.g., fainting, pain and swelling at the injection site (arm), headache, nausea and fever), and 8 percent were considered to be serious (death, permanent disability, life-threatening illness and hospitalization). There is no proven causal link between the vaccine and serious adverse effects; all reports are related by time only. That is, they are only related because the effect happened some time after the vaccination.

      HMMM! Death (about 0 person in 10)

      September 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ardis

      Cite your sources if you make such a statement.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
    • I call BS!

      @ardis – I can cite mine. The CDC, FDA, CNN, Wikipedia, and Dr. Drew, none of which have any reason to lie about the “adverse events” associated with Gardasil.

      September 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • I call BS!

      On July 7, 2008 CNN News reported that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had received 7,802 "adverse events" reports since Gardasil was approved, including reports of paralysis and death. According to CNN, 15 deaths were reported to the FDA, and 10 were confirmed, but so far, none of the 10 confirmed deaths have been linked to the vaccine. The CDC is currently investigating reports of illness.

      September 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • I call BS!

      I’m the type of person who gets the facts before I post about a topic. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find any concrete evidence that the Gardasil vaccine is killing people. (Unless every website I’ve gone to is part of some huge conspiracy theory to cover it up) Also, these “mild adverse events” people keep bringing up occur 15 plus months after the vaccine and a lot can happen in 15 months. Believe me, my son is starting school in a few years, so I want to learn everything I can about this vaccine, and its side affects. If you have any concrete evidence that Gardasil is killing people please let me know. I would be more than happy to eat some crow if I’m wrong.

      September 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |

    my opinion on this issue is teach your kids MORALS and VALUES so they don't have problem on any stds in the future.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • wilbur

      teach morals/values? in the age of iphone and internet?? Hating to note: religion died among the young...all in the last 5 years. Kids all laugh at it, almost none take it seriously.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • marga

      I am from tx and raised in the baptist belt...where we were raised with high morals, educated etc...Rick Perry was from my same area. AND, all of the cheerleaders that graduated from my high school from very prominant families were not virgins, went to church every Sunday and some were pregnant. This was in 1963, my friend !!!
      Raised morally, Marga

      September 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kalie

      And how many philandering spouses are there? Including "moral" good "Christians" at the time? This is not only about the person learning morals but protecting themselves against something that their spouse who had a lapse of judgement.
      There can be issues with the vaccine, I know as I had a very strong reaction towards the vaccine, but morality is not one of them... nor is morality a "cure" for STD's. Only becoming a priest or nun might give you 100% certainty.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • dfergenson

      This sort of thinking on the part of parents is why we need the mandate. It provides cover for those of us who are realistic about our children without it having to seem as though we don't care about them.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • popejon

      VIRGINIA, your opinion you so proudly give is the most funniest unrealistic head up your a$$ thing I have read posted here tonight. You either don't have kids or had your kids back in the 1930's or you believe everything you are told by your kids which is a really bad thing for both you and your kids....

      September 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ardis

      Virginia, you are totally naive. Your daughter may be a virgin when she marries, but I bet her loving husband wasn't.
      You better think that statement over.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. wilbur

    Sounds like a pogram for the "inner-city" crowd......

    September 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. marga


    September 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. wilbur

    YaNo: easier to call crazy or defame then to write something intelligent. America at its finest, perhaps the State Department has an opening for your lack of talent.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. david

    please look up the site truthaboutgardisil.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. david

    September 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ron

    There is only one thing to know. Get your kids in to the doctor and get their shots. You may just save their lives.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Good thinking, or you may just debilitate them forever. You people who trust the CDC and government are sheep.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
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