Why vaccinate for HPV?

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A reader emails me this article pointing to a relatively high rate of allergic reactions to the HPV vaccines:

But some experts remain unconvinced, saying policy makers rushed into a pricey immunization program when there is no epidemic of cervical cancer, which can already be screened through regular Pap smears.

In a Canadian Medical Association Journal article last year, four researchers led by epidemiologist Abby Lippman of McGill University urged a more prudent course.

The New England Journal of Medicine echoed similar feelings in an editorial two weeks ago. "With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious about introducing large-scale vaccination programs," it said.

Says the reader:

This study on its own won't change your mind, but maybe the drip, drip of these findings will eventually give you pause.

Let's think about this.  Effect of allergic reactions:

The allergic reactions included nausea, itchy red rash, difficulty breathing and other symptoms.

Now let's talk about what happens when you get an abnormal pap.  First, they test for HPV.  If that comes back positive, they microscopically examine your cervix for cancer.  If they decide you're in danger, here are your treatment options:

The LEEP procedure is the nicest of your options.  It impairs your fertility, is painful, and prevents you from having sex for six weeks or so.  Its used only on early stage cancer.  All the others are worse.

If they don't do any of these procedures, what they do is watch you, with an eye to doing one of them in the future if there are any changes.


Nausea and/or a rash, or hysterectomy?  We report, you decide.




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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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