Predictable perhaps, but some the comments on this BBC news story about the entirely admirable move to vaccinate girls from 12 to 18 against cervical cancer really do betray both astonishing ignorance about medicine and neolithic head-in-the-sand attitudes to sexuality. The same levels of ignorance were equally in evidence in emails to BBC News 24. I should know better than to look, shouldn’t I?
And I quote:
“It cannott be right to inject cancer into patients”
“The money would be better spent on Sex Education not vaccination.”
“Like myself, I will teach my daughter to wait for marriage before sex and this will eliminate problems like stds and pregnancy which also destroys unmarried womens lives and costs taxpayers millions taking care of illegimates. But, on the other hand, if it will save loose women from cancer then it will be ok for them.”
(pragmatism *and* generosity in one package)
“Why do women always get the vast majority of media attention, financial help and medical facilities when it comes to cancer treatment and prevention? The slightest news regarding breast or cervical cancer seems to hit the headlines.”
“It would be very interesting to know how much money was spent developing the vacine. Has an equivalent amount been spent attempting to do the same for prostate cancer – I very much doubt it. When will there be equality for men in health care?”
“one has to question the expenditure of “hundreds of millions” to save 1000 girls each year.”
“I DONT agree with this sexist vacination if males are’nt included”
“This is another great reason to teach your children at home.”
“Total and utter propaganda to make more money for the pharmacutical companies. FACT is the immune system will stop all diseases”
(because, as we know, no-one ever dies from anything)
“I am against vaccination unless there is evidence showing the disease is contagious, air borne, spread by some sort of interaction. Personally, the idea of pumping children with all sorts of drugs/chemicals (vaccines), I find quite disturbing.”
(I’ve never heard it called “some sort of interaction” before)
…and so it goes on.
Janet is particularly annoyed at the sexism evident in many of the attitudes: women who have sex are ‘loose’ women who have done something wrong; money spent saving women would be better spent elsewhere (e.g. saving men!).
There are a great many rightheaded comments too, pointing out that this is not an issue about promiscuity. Sexually active does not mean promiscuous (and promiscuous does not mean immoral). Anyone who has sex, even once, is likely to be exposed to the virus. As Janet notes, all these concerned mothers must, presumably, have had sex at least once in their lives. That’s all it takes. Vaccinating young doesn’t mean we expect children to have sex young – but it does mean that the’re protected before they first have sex, which evidence suggests is most effective. I’m quite taken by one comment on the website: “The fact that I could get HPV did not make me not have sex, so I doubt the opposite will make people have sex.”
The idea, too that male diseases don’t get attention or funding seems to me to be ludicrous and inaccurate. Hardly surprising since those who are decrying this vaccine seem to be talking from sheer off-top-of-the-head prejudice. And the relative cost of this vaccination is hardly out of scale with other treatments / preventative measures.