Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A local politician recently urged the government to allow Medisave to be used for vaccinations against cervical cancer. Along with the news story were quotes from gynecologists who felt that vaccination should be made mandatory for young girls.

Before they do that, maybe it’s just a better idea to allow Medisave to be used for routine health screening for women in general – specifically, one that includes PAP smears, pelvic ultrasounds and mammography. These costs of these screening tools (with the exception of the inexpensive PAP smear) are high and are a deterrent to many women from making regular screening a part of their lives.

The fact is, vaccination does not offer 100% protection. Cervical cancer is generally known to be a slow-growing cancer whose cure rates are high with early detection via the simple PAP smear. All it takes is awareness and education. Not mandatory vaccination. Lowering the risk of cervical cancer is not difficult – practice safe sex, avoid multiple partners. It’s a simple enough message that just needs to be shared more widely. The same message goes for HIV prevention, STD prevention, pregnancy prevention etc. In other words, the rare hereditary genetic element aside, cervical cancer can be largely prevented through lifestyle changes.

Right now, 3% of Singaporean women are vaccinated against cervical cancer. There are 200 cases of cervical cancer discovered yearly. Out of this, 100 women do not make it.

While I agree that even one death from a preventable cancer like cervical cancer is one death too many, I disagree that a blunt instrument like mandatory vaccination is the answer. In fact, vaccination might well lull one into a false sense of complacency that may lead to more permissive sexual attitudes.

We already have so many vaccinations in the childhood vaccination schedule – with growing calls to add vaccines for the rotavirus, the meningoccal virus and now, the human papilloma virus – where will it end? Above all, while everyone is quick to tout the benefits of vaccination, no one is in any hurry to examine the risks. Parents and women who consider these vaccinations need to be given a fairer and fuller picture – one that includes the efficacy rate of these vaccines, the ingredients that go into the vaccines, the adverse reactions that have occurred and the risk of developing these reactions. Doctors need to discuss these actively with their patients and not just brush off the risks involved just to sell patients a series of shots. Anything less than that is really just pure advertising and that would be a real disservice to those who are considering vaccination as an option.

Call me a cynic but I always throw in a shovelful of salt on anything publicly endorsed by politicians and doctors. In my book, the issue of vaccination has grown to be very big money to many pharma firms today. The stakes are high for everyone – governments, pharma firms, the medical community and not least, parents and children who will be the recipients of these enthusiastically recommended vaccines. More so than ever before, it’s caveat emptor for anyone contemplating these new ‘recommended’ vaccines.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

若無一番寒徹骨,焉得梅花撲鼻香。 ............................................................

紫倫妍勳 said...

君子立恆志,小人恆立志。..................................................

YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD AIRHEAD said...

ITA. Especially if it's Gardasil they're promoting.