Vaccinating against the Herp: is it the word “jab”?

After a number of years as an ex-pat, I’ve embraced many UK terms and phrases. Faves include: up-the-duff (preggers), gaff (home), rubbish (trash), toilet (restroom), tablets (pills) etc. However, jab (shot) always strikes me as a bit off-putting.

jabhappy

jab-happy

But my wariness of the HPV vaccine (brand name: Gardasil) is more than semantic squeamishness about all things needle-y.  Recently the Food & Drug Administration announced it’s allowing for Gardisil to be used to prevent against vaginal and vulva (vulvicular?) cancers. My skepticism hummms…

Dare I say, for once, I can appreciate the U.S. drug company advertisements that riddle television day and night? True, those Gardasil (and it’s U.K. rival, Cervarix) adverts are making most Americans over-prescribed hypocons (and a great source for sleepytime pills). And, undoubtedly, they contribute to a spike in teen prescription drug abuse (Charlie Bartlett, you scamp!). However, at least the U.S. adverts, by being commercials designed to sell product, are overt in their links to profit as the expense of girls’ and women’s sexual health/freedom.

The U.K. campaign, on the other hand, is being spearheaded by the Department of Health Services (DHS). But trust: the positioning of this vaccine as a public health service is only because U.K. Big Pharma hasn’t weasled it’s way onto ITV or Channel 4.

What both U.S. Big Pharma and U.K. NHS are allowing the media to do is continue to pimp their drug as a vaccine against cancer and not a vaccine against a significant health issue that leads to cancer (reportedly 70% of the time). U.K. schools offer the vaccine to 12- and 13-year-olds without parental consent, while there’s pending legislation in many U.S. states to require the vaccine.

Requiring a vaccine only for girls is creepy. Issues of parental consent (control) and stigmatization of girls’ sexual health brings with it obvious moral judgments. But in an interesting turn, gay men have been approaching private doctors for Gardasil in hopes of preventing HPV that leads to anal and penile cancer. This might stymie some folks who are all for putting the onus on girls, while leaving boys to stick their willies hither and yon unprotected. As Dr Anne Szarewski (Cancer UK) told the Beeb, “It is bad enough suggesting to people that their 12-year-old daughter might need a vaccine against a sexually transmitted infection. I would be interested to see the response of suggesting to parents that they should vaccinate their boys at 12 in case they become gay.” Or in case they try anal, as some of us heteros do. I’d like to see that, too, Dr Anne.

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Filed under sexual health, sexuality

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