To V or Not to V

There are some days when I think the nanny state has gone soft. What I’d like is for a good old tranny nanny like Castro to take over and decide every aspect of life so that we could all luxuriate in the bliss of total abdication of all personal responsibility.
Sure. We’d be eating plantains (whatever they are) and listening to appalling speeches for the rest of our non-working days but at least we would never have to suffer under the weight of having made the wrong decision about anything – because there would be no decisions to make.

Take vaccinations for example. In Cuba they’re obligatory and they get almost 100% coverage while New Zealand struggles along at about 66% with about 100% of mothers-who-read, agonizing over the decision and later becoming convinced they’ve done the wrong thing anyway.

There are few topics likely to cause catastrophic social discord in wealthier NZ suburbs as the question of whether To V or Not to V.

The non-vaccinators are usually fairly strident and having lived with several of them while they were following gurus and questioning the organic integrity of my carrots while managing to spend the weekend dancing on party pills, (lucky pills have no chemicals then…)

I have some issues taking them seriously.

While they may call the SPCA thinking they have a dying seal in their backyard only to discover it’s just their child with a bad case of whooping cough – the non-vaccinators can take comfort in the knowledge that they’ve saved their child from any number of possible side effects that the jabs have been blamed for. Most of the time they are vindicated, because their children don’t get meningitis or hepatitis, which further infuriates the vaccinators because as they see it; the non-vaccinators only get to enjoy the benefits of a largely immunised population because other people’s children have suffered the risks.

Mostly – none of the kids in either group end up getting any horrific childhood disease because they’re not poor and they’re not living in over-crowded sub-standard houses – but that’s a whole other issue.

Seen as epidemiological free loaders by the pro-vaccine crowd, the jab-happys are, in turn viewed as gullible conventionalists who will one day wake up to the pharmaceutical companies conspiracy to wrangle huge government contracts at the expense of the health of our kids. Which is why the lack of public communication around the decision to start, and then abruptly stop the meningococcal B vaccination programme, based on its lack of long term efficacy, has done such damage. Although the vaccine programme could well have contributed to the overall waning of the epidemic, the knowledge that the three trips to the doctor and the painful jabs were of no more benefit than a few months protection from a disease that is very rare anyway, has seriously undermined the confidence many women have in the public information that is available on vaccines. Which sends us off to the internet; in all its random, pharmaceutically funded, fringe group, lunatic glory.

And now we have another vaccine. A vaccine which could potentially save thousands of New Zealand women’s lives.

Cervical cancer kills around 60 Kiwi women every year and the HPV vaccine is purported by the Immunisation Advisory Centre in Auckland University to have a close to 100% efficacy rate on the two strains of virus responsible for around 70% of cervical cancers.

When tested after 5 years, women who’d been vaccinated showed a robust immune ‘memory’ which indicates that they could be protected for a lot longer than that. While some internet sites are stating that 18 women died on the trials, what they forgot to add was that the deaths were from such things as trauma (car accidents), suicide or drug over-doses. What they didn’t die of …was cervical cancer.

Thankfully this is not Cuba and we do get to make our own decisions.

All we need is access to all the information – it’d be a shame if women dismissed the possible health benefits of this vaccine outright simply because the lack of information surrounding other programmes has undermined their faith in the system as a whole.



Related Information:

NZ Government Cervical Cancer Vaccine information site

NZ Ministry of Health "Medsafe" medicines safety division, responsible for regulating medicines in New Zealand. Their website has a Consumer Information Sheet and Datasheet on the HPV vaccine, Gardasil®.

NZ Ministry of Health’s HPV Immunisation Programme, the National Immunisation Schedule and the Immunisation Handbook.

University of Auckland Immunisation Advisory Centre, provides factual information about immunisation and vaccines for the public and health professionals.

One for the Girls Auckland District Health Board, provides information about the cervical cancer prevention initiative for girls and young women.

NZ National Cervical Screening Programme cervical screening and smear test information.

The World Health Organisation directs and coordinates health across the United Nations.

The Australian Department of Health and Ageing provides information on the Australian HPV Programme including information on vaccine safety from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.

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