Preventive vs. Primitive

Provided without initial comment:

Dr. David Watson has already begun thinking about his pitch for a new vaccine to block the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

“What I will probably do is point out that last year alone, more people died of cervical cancer, which was pretty much directly produced by Human Papillomavirus, than were killed in 9/11,” said Watson, president of Pediatrics West, a private practice with offices in Concord, Westwood, and Groton. “People appreciate those sorts of comparisons.”

Parents will soon start hearing similar pitches from their children’s doctors, supplementing a television and magazine ad campaign already begun by Merck & Co., the manufacturer of the vaccine, which is expected to receive federal approval next week. [ed. note: approved today by the FDA]

A vaccine that prevents HPV? That’s great news, right? Only if you’re interested in fact-driven medicine; too many seem motivated by fear of the unknown or the inevitable. Or worse, they’re stuck in outdated, irrational thinking.

THE ARTICLE regarding a virus to prevent the Human Papillomavirus (“A fresh shot,” Health/Science, May 29) is well taken, but it is unfortunate that it did not mention the value of circumcision as a preventive measure.

Medical literature describes the higher incidence of cervical cancer in wives of uncircumcised [sic] males and the higher incidence of cancer of the penis in those males.

Africa is now in a frenzy with masses of men trying to be circumcised to reduce the incidence of HIV. Uncircumcised [sic] males tend to accumulate bacteria and virus unless there is meticulous hygiene.


The only reference to circumcision the article should’ve made is that the argument pushed by Dr. Heifetz is now irrelevant. Modern science is winning, but Dr. Heifetz would prefer that we continue slicing foreskins to prevent something that can now be prevented with higher efficacy in the people affected by the disease. Also, the issue of personal responsibility arises again, as HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease.

Is Dr. Heifetz suggesting that circumcision voids any need for safe sex [i.e., condoms and monogamy]? The doctors discussing the HPV vaccine aren’t making such claims, only that a vaccine is reasonable given the prevalence of HPV in our (predominantly circumcised) society. Dr. Heifetz can only rely on the same, tired excuses for circumcising non-consenting infant males, without seeing the obvious connection that less invasive solutions exist for every bogeyman he props up.

I’ll remember that the next time someone suggests that I’m a crazy person for thinking routine infant circumcision is bullshit.

One thought on “Preventive vs. Primitive”

  1. The idiocy of the circumcison argument is obvious, so I’ll move on.
    Vaccinating children for HPV is ridiculous. Children are already over-vaccinated and adding one more vaccination to the mix doesn’t bode well for the future of the human immune system. Even a woman who has never been sexually active can get cervical cancer. As with the circumcision issue, there’s no way to know an infant’s sexual future, so why vaccinate her unnecessarily?
    Teaching, modeling, and encouraging personal responsibility is the best way to prevent any STD, not circumcision or vaccination.

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