Home > Editorial, The Industry Cosign > The HPV Vaccine: Weeding Through the Controversy For the Sake Of My Black Girls

The HPV Vaccine: Weeding Through the Controversy For the Sake Of My Black Girls


Post image for The HPV Vaccine: Weeding Through the Controversy For the Sake Of My Black GirlsIt was never a question for us the pediatrician would say the girls were due for this vaccine or that one, and we’d hold Mari and Lila and comfort them while the nurses pumped their arms or their legs with the protective brews. It was very simple: Kids get and pass along all kinds of cooties from one to the other; the shots would protect our babies from both contracting and spreading said cooties. Honestly, it never occurred to us to question their safety. The worst thing that’s ever happened to our daughters after getting a shot? The nurse ran out of Princess Tiana band-aids for the girls’ boo boos.

So I feel like a crap mom when I try to explain why I’ve been dragging my feet on giving our pediatrician the O.K. to give Mari a series of shots doctors say will protect her from HPV, a sexually-transmitted disease that happens to be one of the leading causes for cervical cancer. The shots are supposed to be given to girls sometime between ages 11 and 12, before they become sexually active and put themselves at risk for getting the disease. My pediatrician, an amazing doctor and mom who insists she plans on giving the vaccine to her own daughters when they’re old enough, has been at me for two years to give the series of shots three in all, administered six months apart to my 12-year-old, and each time, I’ve hesitated. Said, “let’s wait one more year.”

My concerns: The HPV vaccine is relatively new I mean compared to those for polio, the measles, chicken pox, and pertussis. How do I, as a mom, pump a drug into my baby that I’ve never been exposed to myself? And how do I bring myself to trust that the vaccine won’t harm her over the long-term, particularly considering that it’s a mere baby on the market?

Plus, the truth of the matter is that I’ve been reading way too many stories of late about the U.S. government’s involvement in experiments and medical procedures meted out unknowingly on people of color across the globe: women sterilized against their will in Puerto Rico; Guatemalans intentionally given syphilis in experiments that eerily resembled the Tuskegee syphilis experiments conducted on black men through the early 1970s; black children purposely exposed to dangerous levels of lead and, despite severe cases of lead poisoning, left untreated by the doctors studying their effects. These things happened in my parents lifetime. My lifetime. In the case of the black children, just years before I gave birth to a black child of my own.

These are the things running through my mind when the needles come out. Particularly when it involves my daughters.

But then, a few weeks ago, Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, candidate for the Republican 2012 presidential nomination and self-proclaimed Mama Bear who, when it comes to policy that directly affects mothers and children, always seems to fall on the wrong side of doing right by us, made me see just how dumb, unreasonable and dramatic I’m being when it comes to the HPV vaccine. During a nationally-televised Republican nominee debate, she spoke vehemently against making the vaccine mandatory, and later said in an interview with Fox News that someone told her that her kid suffered retardation after receiving the vaccination.

Listening to Bachmann made me realize how stupid I sound making grand pronouncements about my reservations with the HPV vaccine without doing so much as a simple Google search to check out the prevailing wisdom on its safety. It sure didn’t seem like Bachmann had bothered; twice, she repeated that story about this mystery mom telling her that her daughter suffered HPV vaccine-induced retardation. Since then, she’s neither produced the mom nor has she offered even a shred of research or evidence to back up her words.

I’m better than this.

So I Googled (of course) and came across a report from the Centers For Disease Control detailing reports, tests and statistics on the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. As of June 22, 2011, 35 million doses have been administered, with 18,727 reports of adverse effects. Ninety-two percent of the adverse effects were considered “non-serious” events like fainting, pain, swelling at the injection site, headache, nausea and fever. The remaining 8 percent of those who had problems after getting the shots reported blood clots, the contraction of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and death.

Still a little shaken by that miniscule but real number of girls who had serious problems after getting the vaccine, I asked a friend of mine if she could arrange for me to talk to an expert on HPV, gynecological issues and the vaccine, and she hooked me up with Dr. Vanessa Cullins, the vice president of medical affairs at Planned Parenthood. Dr. Cullins was gracious enough to answer my many concerns, and actually made a really sound case for why I should roll up my daughter’s sleeve and get with the Gardasil. First, she allayed my fears about the historical legacy of harmful medical studies by reminding me that the drug has been around for five years and that before that, it had gone through extensive clinical trials in both animals and humans before it hit the market. “Besides,” she added, “more white females have received this vaccine than black ones.”

That more black girls aren’t getting vaccinated is sad, she added, because while the numbers of black women who get cervical cancer are less than their white counterparts, black women are more likely to die from the disease. Plus, a 2008 study on sexually-transmitted diseases found that almost half of black girls between ages 15 to 19 had an STD, and about 70 percent of those cases were HPV the very disease the vaccine was created to prevent.

Now, I remember being shocked by that number when I saw that study a few years ago remember asking myself where in the hell we were going wrong that nearly half of black teenage girls were not only carrying a sexually-transmitted disease, but getting it through unprotected sexual intercourse. My assumption as advanced by the myriad of media outlets that reported the study and took great pains to stigmatize young black girls in the process was that black girls were strutting around having unprotected sex and spreading diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes all around their high schools. But as Dr. Cullins pointed out, the fact of the matter is that the STD primarily associated with the black girls in that study was, indeed, HPV a disease that you can get pretty easily without having sex. “HPV is an extremely common disease and you get it from skin-to-skin contact, not just sexual intercourse,” Dr. Cullins said. “That’s why it’s so important to give it to kids before they become sexually active. They get their breast buds and the hair beneath their arms and the growth spurts and those hormones start raging and the next thing you know they’re starting to kiss and hold on to each other and little boys might start fingering their vagina they might experiment without going all the way. That’s how easily HPV can spread.”

In other words, black teenage girls aren’t insatiable whores spreading their legs and disease to anyone who looks in their direction; HPV is an easily-contracted disease that causes cervical cancer; and my daughter is in the group that is severely affected by both the disease that can cause the cancer and the cancer that could kill her.

Am I still afraid of the vaccine? I’m not going to lie I am. But I’m more scared of what could happen to my daughter if I don’t take responsibility and get her vaccinated. The numbers don’t lie. The chances of the vaccination causing a neurological problem in my daughter is miniscule compared to the 50% chance of her contracting HPV when she becomes sexually active, and that case of HPV turning into a cancer that can take her life.

*insert image of Denene dialing the pediatrician here*

This post appeared originally on the MyBrownBaby.com page on Parenting.com’s The Parenting Post. Check out Parenting.com for more information on vaccines and other great info on child development and raising kids.

Photo source: TalkWithYourKids.org

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  1. September 29, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    A report from the Centers For Disease Control detailing reports, tests and statistics on the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. As of June 22, 2011, 35 million doses have been administered, with 18,727 reports of adverse effects. Ninety-two percent of the adverse effects were considered “non-serious” events like fainting, pain, swelling at the injection site, headache, nausea and fever. The remaining 8 percent of those who had problems after getting the shots reported blood clots, the contraction of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Permanent disability, Facial Palsy, Convulsions, Spontaneous Abortions, Pregnancy, Miscarriage, Aids like conditions, and death. See the evidence and do the math – if According to the CDC 35,000,000 million doses have been administered with an eight (8) percent neurological disorder resulting then that means 28,000 victims were created among those being treated. It used to be 3,000 female usualy older female 45 year and up contracted cervical cancer now its 4,000? Why is the number increasing? And secondly, Ladies just answer one question!! Where is the proof that this drug actually works from 6-11 years until 45 -55 years? The Black females are easily goated into experimentation with her reproduction like in Washington DC – No HPV shot No Education? Same can be said about the recent past IUD/Dalkin Shields use in the 1970’s and 1980’s that caused infections, infertility and unknown death and injuries was called safe and effective contraceptive. In 1978-1992 Depo-Provera shot caused breast cancer when tested on dogs caused unknown deaths and over 4,000 females were harmed, the FDA refuse to fund testing the drug as a contraceptive. Depro-Provera was called a safe and effective contraceptive. Here again another experiment targeted at millions of low income Black females by state legislator the Norplant contraceptive system implant between 1990-2002 caused harm in menstrual changed, weight gain, head aches, mood swings, blood clots, liver dysfunctions . Norplant caused was recalled in 2002 and was called a safe and effective contraceptive. Black females are not the only victims of safe and effective contraceptive schemes, but the history must be known see Harriet A. Washington’s book “Medical Apartheid”. See the thousands of HPV victims today at
    http://www.judicialwatch.org/story/2008/may/judicial-watch-investigates-side-effects-hpv-vaccine and http://www.judicialwatch.org/files/documents/2010/VAERS-052009-to-092010.pdf and
    See North Carolina Sterilization Victims Today at http://www.digtriad.com/news/article/180237/1/NC-Sterilization-Victims-Scream-Shout-At-Public-Forum . Don’t become a victim Please Read before you write off your daughters future.

  2. September 29, 2011 at 6:24 PM


    The Best Ways to Prevent Cancer
    10 Tips Include Minding Your Weight

    Body fat and cancer are more closely linked than previously thought according to a landmark report released by The World Cancer Research Fund. The study released in the organization’s annual report correlates cancer, diet, physical activity and weight.

    The 2007 Expert Report includes the most comprehensive research on cancer prevention gathered by over 100 researchers and institutions across the globe. A key finding as the best way to prevent cancer is to maintain a healthy weight — based on Body Mass Index (BMI).

    Calculate your BMI

    Here are 10 cancer prevention tips recommended by the report:
    1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
    2. Be physically active daily for at least 30 minutes
    3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar and fat, or low in fiber)
    4. Eat more variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans
    5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats
    6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day
    7. Limit consumption of salty foods and food processed with salt/sodium
    8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer, opt for a balanced diet
    9. It’s best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months
    10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention

    And researchers also suggest against smoking or chewing tobacco in any form because of the increased risk of cancer and other
    serious diseases.

    For the complete report, visit The World Cancer’s Research Fund Recommendations for Cancer Prevention Web site.

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