Dr. Stephen Miles did a masterful job of clinically explaining the HPV vaccination and the virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women. He appeared today on MPR’s Midday program.
But caller after caller took issue with what he had to say, rarely citing clinical evidence, and it was clear that whatever science-bassed education Miles was trying to provide, it wasn’t working.
That seems to be the dilemma in a debate that, like climate change, is too polluted by politics to have an enlightening discussion.
Part of the problem? The Internet, according to some experts. Several decades after it came into our lives, there are still far too many people who think if it’s on the Internet, it’s got to be true.
The other part of the problem? Well, when’s the last time you had a belief and you changed it? It’s not something that happens often in public discourse of important issues.
“I recently had a mother who had cervical cancer who refused the HPV vaccine for her child,” Dr. Mary Anne Jackson an infectious disease expert at Children’s Mercy Hospital & Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, told Reuters. “I asked her where she got her information and she said, ‘the Internet, and innuendo.”‘
Indeed, one of the callers to today’s Midday cited an Internet website that opposes the vaccine as the source of her information, citing claims of 98 deaths from the vaccine Gardisil.
“I’ve looked at the same website” Miles responded. “The website includes zero medical records. It does not include links to the medical records… its entire board does not include anyone, as far as I can see, with any medical training or experience. Testimonials are important in marketing products and getting products to be not marketed. But that is not a substitute for science.”
Science, of late, has a hard time getting much respect.
“What is especially disturbing is you’ve got organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — every learned medical organization in the country and indeed around the world — in favor of immunization,” Jackson said.
She said 85 percent of her patients readily accept the vaccine, 12 percent are hesitant, and 3 percent “flat out refuse.” She said she’s not worried about the daughters in the 3 percent.
“It’s not going to impact the flat-out refusers. I worry it is going to impact this group of vaccine-hesitant families,” she said.