A Shot In The Dark

Remember the HPV vaccine? HPV is a common STD that can lead to cervical cancer, so the shot is billed as a cancer vaccine, but that's not exactly so; would you accept the notion that chastity prevents cancer? The vaccine was in the news some time ago because several states (notably Texas) made it mandatory for girls as young as eleven to receive the vaccine. Parents rightly balked, and now they have even more cause to do so. People are reporting scary side effects. Here's one reporter's blog entry about a story she filed on the topic. Speaking of a star athlete who developed severe fascitis and is now chronically ill, she cites the parents' regrets:
One thing that's different about Amanda's case than some of the others is that both of her parents medical doctors who didn't think twice about having their daughter get the shot – but are now second-guessing themselves. They call their daughter's illness after Gardasil "a very sobering experience." Amanda's dad says, "as the father of three girls, I've had to ask myself why I let my eldest one get an unproven vaccine against a few strains of a nonlethal virus that can be dealt with in many more effective ways. It's not like they are at high risk. It was the regrettable acceptance of the vaccine party line that [mis]led me. "
I want to be careful to say this is an anecdote and there's no conclusive evidence the vaccine is dangerous; freak bad reactions happen with perfectly safe vaccines. This is tragic, but not a rational argument against vaccination in the case of life-threatening childhood diseases such as polio and typhoid, which are making a comeback thanks in part to vaccinophobia. But here's something we do know:
Since the test subjects are young, it will be decades before a large group of them reaches the age at which women typically get cervical cancer. Which means it may be a long time before we know the vaccine's true real world effectiveness when it comes to preventing cervical cancer. In the meantime, public health officials say they will closely monitor any emerging side effect trends.
Not to mention the vaccine only lasts five years, and protects against a disease that is a product of behavior, not out there in the ether for your precious little girl to inhale. Sheesh. Let the young ladies reach the age of majority and give informed consent, don't use an entire generation of women as lab rats. Not that we should care. They're just women.

[ P.S. The last time the vaccination wars showed up in the blogs, I liked the distinction an Infectious Disease Specialist made in a comment on a Michelle Malkin post. He seems to find a reasonable ground between public safety and politically correct medical bullies.
I think of vaccines in two categories:

1) Vaccines that tend to benefit the patient with unproven or small benefit to the community, such as the cervical cancer vaccine and chickenpox.

2) Vaccines where the patient benefits but there is a great benefit for society, such as polio and measles vaccines.

If the illness is generally not serious, such as chickenpox, or unlikely to occur in a specific population, such as hepatitis B, then if you are confident that your child is low risk, I see no problem in withholding the vaccine. The cervical cancer vaccine has other moral and ethical considerations and since it is not proven to help society as a whole, I have no problem with withholding it from your child.

However, measles and polio (and smallpox in the past) are such horrible diseases, and the vaccines have made major impacts on the health of our country, that these vaccines should not be withheld except in special circumstances. Even a small unvaccinated subpopulation in a community could lead to outbreaks, as occurred in Iowa with mumps, when religious sects had not been vaccinated. For measles, rubella, polio, and a few others, I would agree with the Instapundit that withholding the vaccine from children (except in special circumstances) would be wrong.]
That position seems so sane to me.