Saturday, September 24, 2011

Is There A Vaccination Against Ignorance...?

Edward Jenner Vaccinating a Boy
Eugene Ernest Hillemacher

In this age of global travel, can you imagine a world where smallpox still exists?  The world would be a very different place, one that I cannot even imagine.  The whole dynamic of travel would be very different from the one we experience now.  As with the threats of terrorism, many of our freedoms would be in jeopardy, not to mention our lives.  Smallpox was a scourge on humanity, a highly infectious communicable disease that killed over one-third of the people it infected, and left the survivors horribly disfigured.  Just in the 20th century alone, smallpox was responsible for an estimated 500 million deaths.

In 1796 an English physician by the name of Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids who had been exposed to cowpox, did not develop smallpox. Jenner took the fluid from a cowpox pustule on a dairymaid's hand and inoculated an 8-year-old boy. Six weeks later, he exposed the boy to smallpox, and the boy did not develop smallpox, but remained well. Jenner coined the term "vaccine" from the word "vaca" which means "cow" in Latin. By 1800 about 100,000 people had been vaccinated worldwide. After vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the World Health Organization certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. One of the scourges of mankind no longer exists.

Now, can you imagine a world without cancer? Scientists have long believed that many cancers are the result of viral infections, and if so, a vaccine can be developed to prevent those cancers. Can you imagine ~~ a vaccination against cancer? Another of the scourges of mankind could be eradicated, or at least greatly reduced. Well, such a vaccine exists right now. It is called Gardasil, and it protects folks from cancers that develop after they have been exposed to certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause an estimated 70% of cervical cancers, and are responsible for most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancers. Farah Fawcett died of anal cancer at the age of 61. It is a horrible disease, and she died a horrible, protracted death.

Newflash: Human sexuality is here to stay, and unfortunately, along with it the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are here to stay as well. And here is the shocking news: Of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year, 9.1 million (48%) occur among 15- to 24-year-olds, even though this age group represents only one-quarter of the sexually active population. According to a 2008 study by the CDC, an estimated 1 in 4 teenage girls has at least one STI at any given time.

There has been a lot of backlash against Gardasil in recent weeks ~~ thank you Michele Bachmann ~~ and I think it is unbelievably ignorant. It's not a moral issue, it's a medical issue. If there are opportunities to save millions of lives, how can anyone disagree with that? Vaccines have side effects? Oh, gosh, well, so do smallpox and cancer, the main side effect being death, the second side effect being permanent disfigurement. The smallpox vaccine was not without side effects and in a few cases, approximately 2 in one million, the side effects were severe. But if you really want to know the pros and cons of those odds, ask someone who has had smallpox or cancer.

Every human being on earth should be vaccinated with Gardasil, before they become sexually active. Period. Full stop. End of story. I feel very strongly about this, and I hope the scope of ignorance represented by people like Michele Bachmann will also be eradicated as soon as possible. Is there a vaccination against ignorance? Oh, how I wish...


Paula said...

Thank you, Jo, for helping to shine the spotlight on these idiots. There is a subculture at work that is refusing to vaccinate their children against anything. This puts all of us at risk.

You ask if there is a vaccination against ignorance. Just this morning, my brother emailed me an article from It is an excerpt from a new book by a Stanford professor who laments about how ignorance has become a virtue in extreme right wing circles.

Jo said...

Paula, yes, diseases like measles, etc., are coming back because ignorant people don't want to vaccinate their children against them. And along with measles comes measles meningitis, which kills children. What the heck is wrong with these people?

Sextant said...

Excellent post as always Jo! However an ignorance vaccine will not work on these people. Ignorance implies not knowing any better. These people are not ignorant, they are malevolent. They know better. They use these ideas as a political tool. They tell the crowd, for whom one might argue ignorance but I doubt an entirely innocent ignorance, what they want to hear to get elected regardless of the consequences. Pain, suffering, and death mean nothing to these people, only getting elected. I may be interested in Canadian citizenship soon, any chance you could get me in?

Oh BTW Jenner's product effectiveness tests on the 8 year old is an interesting contrast to the book Unsaid that Alicia reviewed over at her blog:
Titere con Bonete: Unsaid

They didn't fool around back then.

Jo said...

Sextant, yes, there is nothing more frightening than politicians who use religion or science as a basis for their political platform ~~ especially when they are ignorant of all the facts. So many people look to politicans for easy answers.

I read Alicia's post and it's excellent. It sounds like it would be a very interesting book to read. And yes, there are no easy answers.

the walking man said...

All of what you say is 100% correct except to political whores who are already disfigured or on the way to their own demise for the lies they use a capital.

without articles like this by one who works in the medical (I think you work in statistics) industry then the mass education of the TRUTH will never get disseminated because so few control so much of the media.

Jo leave a comment on whatever is my current post and if you don't mind tell me which day i can lift this entire post and re-post it on my blog. No edit will be done and proper link back will be given.

jennifer black said...

So true--and sad, Jo. It's depressing, although I don't think of it as ignorance so much as blind obedience to a cause. Ironically, that cause is often cloaked in red, white, and blue flags shouting about "freedom."

Freedom *from* thought, I'd say.

Cloudia said...

you are a great explainer!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >


Katy said...

As a citizen of the State of Texas, mother of and mother of a young daughter I have to disagree with you.

Gardasil is a DRUG developed by a corporation. It is NOT a proven vaccine. It may or may NOT help prevent certain viral infections which may or may NOT cause cancer. We don't know.

Not only do we not know what this drug may or may not actually be guarding us against we also do not know it's long term effects.

Gardasil may turn out to be a mercurial drug. It may turn out to be the best thing since the smallpox vaccine. But we also have a seen a long history of drugs that we later learned cause more harm than good.

Given that there is a whole lot that we don't know about this drug, or even about the HPV virus it's purported to possibly guard against, we shouldn't be mandating our children be used as experimental test subjects.

I think it's also good to keep in mind that at the time Rick Perry wanted to make this a mandatory vaccine for every girl in the state of Texas ages 12-18, Gardasil had been on the market for less than 6 months. In medical terms that's still testing phase.

While I'm not republican and I think Bachmann is wrong 99.9% of the time, she is right when she says that Rick Perry was motivated by money, not the wealth fare of his citizens when he decided to sign that executive order. He is the ultimate political sleaze ball.

DJan said...

I will stay away from the political ramifications of this whole idea of vaccines, but I do believe that anything that can help to eradicate disease is a good thing. And I applaud your willingness to bring up this controversial subject so that people can think about it.

I just got my flu shot yesterday because I want to minimize any effects I might have from being exposed to the flu. I also realize that there are no guarantees.

Jo said...

Mark, I tried to find your blog, but I couldn't. I would be happy to share my post with you, and you can repost it. I just can't find you on Blogger or Facebook anymore. :-(

Jennifer, as a Canadian, I must admit I don't understand American politics or politicians. They play fast and easy with folks' lives.

Cloudia, thank you. :-) I hope I reach a few people.

Katy, no Gardasil is not a drug, it's a vaccine. I work for the Center for Disease Control, and I work with doctors ~~ many of whom have been publish in the Journal of American Medical Association ~~ who strongly advocate vaccinating people before they become sexually active.

The human papillomavirus was discovered by a German researcher named Harald zur Hausen, and he won a Nobel Prize for his discovery. Out of his research came the vaccine against the human papillomavirus. There are actually two vaccines against HPV.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women, and
Gardasil was approved for use in Canada in July 2006 as preventative vaccine against HPV-caused cervical cancers. Fortunately our health care system is not money-drive.

The CDC has a huge STI clinic, with world-famous physicians and researchers, and every single one of them think Gardasil is a God-send. They have seen the *other side* of that mountain, and it isn't pleasant.

Whatever you are being told about Gardasil, please don't listen to the politicians.

Jo said...

Djan, gosh, there are no guarantees. But we have come a long way in the 21st Century, and we should take advantage of the scientific enlightenment. I hope you don't get the flu...! :-)

Leslie: said...

well said, Josie. Girls in middle school are already being vaccinated with Gardasil, even though they are still far from becoming sexually active (I hope).

Katy said...

Jo, you're right. If and when my doctor tells me to vaccinate my daughter. I will.

I won't listen to Politicians....

Gardasil was approved by the FDA in June of 2006. Perry signed his executive order in February of 2007. To me, that's insane. You are mandating children be injected with a drug of which we have no idea what its long term effects will be.

HPV is not smallpox or even Polio. There is no reason for a government to demand such a drastic wide spread use of such a young drug.

I have no problem with people getting their daughter's vaccinated against HPV. I have no problem with people using this drug themselves if they so choose.

I have a HUGE problem with my Governor selling my child's health for personal gain.

I think you need to read into this specific situation more. Perry really is all about politics and money.

Jo said...

Leslie, now is the time to do it. It's a medical issue, not a moral issue. It's a safeguard, and I think it's incredible. Who cares what age the children are vaccinated? It's not a moral issue.

Katy, we don't have the same problems with politicans meddling into matters of health to such a degree here in Canada. Gardasil is not a drug. Drugs are ongoing medications used to cure medical conditions. Gardasil is vaccination against the disease taking a foothold. And yes, HPV is as bad as smallpox and polio ~~ perhaps even worse in many ways. It's silent, an individual doesn't know they have been infected, and it wreaks its deadly course until it kills. The cancers caused by the HPV virus have killed more people than polio. I think Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines are a miracle. However, having said that, I am not looking at it through the same prism that you are in Texas. That is why I object so much to politicians getting involved in these matters. The doctors and researchers must be heartsick at what Perry is doing ~~ and alternatively, Bachmann too. Neither one is qualified to give opinions on HPV or the vaccines against them. I'm hoping there will be more vaccines against cancers in the coming years, and if there are, I hope the politicians mind their own business.

This is from the website where I work:

Prevention: Vaccination is 100% effective in preventing the effects of four kinds of HPV infection. These four types of HPV can cause:

cancer of the cervix, vulva and vagina (types 16 and 18), as well as genital and anal warts (types 6 and 11). These four types of HPV cause:

7 out of 10 cases of cervical cancers;
9 out of 10 cases of genital warts;
Other diseases such as cancer of the vagina and the vulva;
The risk of infection increases with the number of sexual partners and having unprotected sex.

Using a condom protects against HPV infections. However, condoms cannot cover all the skin surfaces around the genitals and the anus, and therefore does not guarantee complete protection against HPV."

You can also read some more material here:

It's very interesting and informative, and I hope everyone reads all the publications there.

Paula said...

Rick Perry IS a sleezy politician and did stand to gain personally from promoting the vaccination. That is an unfortunate side issue. It in no way subtracts from the merit of vaccinating to prevent disease.

Although fairly liberal politically, I would bet I am as conservative morally in my personal life as the crazed Ms. Bachmann. I still see no benefit to me in people running around spreading preventable disease.

Jo said...

Paula, yes I agree. Unfortunately, if the disease were spread by people rubbing elbows, or shaking hands, there would be no moral issue attached to it. However, the human body doesn't understand morality when it comes to infection. Infection is infection, no matter how it is contracted. But that is what is clouding the issue. Perfectly nice people get cancer ~~ all the time. If there is a vaccine to prevent it, so much the better...!

Sextant said...


My guess is that you are far more moral. You just don't advertise it as much.

I don't think of this as being a moral issue, I think of it as being a public health issue. Disregard the personal morality of the individuals involved, do we not have the moral obligation to prevent disease where ever we can regardless of the cause. If society is devoting X number of dollars to treat HPV related illnesses, then that is X number of dollars being denied to other needs. When you have a vaccine that can save many millions of dollars in health care costs down the road, I believe as a society we are obligated to pursue that path.

Jo once again you have brought up a touchy subject and discussed it with great intelligence and sensitivity. This has been an excellent discussion, and you are to be commended on both your knowledge in this area and the sincerity and objectivity in which you present it. Nothing short of excellence.

Sextant said...


Off topic question, forgive me.

I am new to your blog and must confess a curiosity to the meaning of its name, A Majority of Two. I went back to your oldest post in November of 2008 but apparently you had been in business already and had lost the older posts.

So do tell, what is the story behind A Majority of Two?

Jo said...

Amen, Jo!

Well said, as always. You can bet my precious daughter had that vaccination the moment it was available.

How very naive and shortsighted to ignore the consequences of not using it. Tsk, tsk.

Jo said...

Sextant, you are so right. This is a public health issue. Gardasil will save lives and it will save billions of dollars in health care. You are so right...!

And thank you for the compliment. When I started my blog, I didn't want it to be just a "photo" blog, or a "mommy" blog, or a "food" blog. I wanted it to be a forum where I could discuss things. I once read the quote; "There are times and places where one's voice needs to be heard above the clamor of others who may think differently or wish to go in a different direction. The need to raise one's 'voice' is not a call to shout or to shout down others, but to preserve one's integrity of belief and feeling so that one can become a 'majority of one'." But I preferred 'Majority of Two', meaning me, and whomever might read my little blog. And that's how my blog got its name. In recent months I have become sort of 'boring' because I had lost my 'voice', but I'm getting it back. :-)

Jo, you're a very wise woman...! That is just one more thing that your daughter is now protected from.

JeannetteLS said...

Excellent. Thank you for posting this, Jo.

Jo said...

Jeanette, you're welcome. :-) It's something I feel strongly about.

KrippledWarrior said...

I was unaware that it worked on males...

Jo said...

Kurt, Hi! Yes, it works on the humanpapilloma virus, which both males and females can get.

kenju said...

You are so right! Thanks for the sermon.

Sextant said...

Very lovely quote:

"There are times and places where one's voice needs to be heard above the clamor of others who may think differently or wish to go in a different direction. The need to raise one's 'voice' is not a call to shout or to shout down others, but to preserve one's integrity of belief and feeling so that one can become a 'majority of one'".

And I would say that you have achieved that goal rather nicely except perhaps you need a new name, "The Majority of 800". You have a well behaved bunch of followers. I like how things are discussed here without the vitriol that so often accompanies differences of opinion these days. Jo you have a magnificent head on your shoulders and I consider it a blessing that you allow us to peek at what is inside it.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, many in the general public don't understand the concept of relative risk and of cost-benefit. For them, it is an all or nothing approach; i.e. the vaccine must give 100% protection with 0% risk. Nothing, not even widely used aspirin can be that good.

There may be still no vaccine against stupidity but would it be mercy killing if we got rid of ill-informed, stupid, ranting politicians on the basis it would be merciful for us?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Unfortunately, ignorance will always be with us. Many of the world's people are ignorantly active.

I don't know enough about Gardisil to have an intelligent opinion of it and since my daughters are both grown I don't have to. But I am extremely wary of the pharmaceutical industry's control over so many aspects of American health care, along with the insurance carriers and politicians.

I do not believe that health decisions should ever be made by non-medical personnel, and I think Katy's determination to protect her daughter from those who have no concerns for her welfare except as a future voter is most appropriate. Perhaps this vaccine will turn out to be a good thing, but as far as I know, that has not been determined at this time.

lovelyprism said...

If we vaccinated against ignorance, who would I spend my day making fun of?

Jo said...

Judy, oh gosh, *heh* I didn't mean it to sound like a sermon. But I guess I am passionate about a vaccine for any type of cancer, yes. :-)

Sextant, well, thank you again for the lovely compliment. I indeed do feel complimented whenever anyone tells me I am intelligent. To me, that is worth its weight in gold. And yes, I try to debate things here without getting personal. People can discuss the issues quite freely, and it's okay to disagree. That's what makes great conversation.

Calvin, you are so right. We take risks everyday, and nothing is risk-free. And yes, mercy killing of ill-informed, stupid, ranting politicians on the basis it would be merciful for us would be a good thing...! They just cloud issues of which they have no knowledge whatsoever.

Susan, fortunately in Canada, the pharmaceutical companies don't have the same control over health care, and it's too bad that Gardasil became so politicized. But, working at the CDC, I have attended seminars and read all the literature (and there is a lot) about the vaccine for cervical cancer, and I think it will be proven as effective as the researchers say it is. I think it is human nature for us to be wary of any new vaccines, medications, treatments, etc. But I strongly believe Gardasil and Cervarix are going to save lives ~~ male as well as female. The CDC is in charge of the inoculation program in the school here, much like the polio vaccines in the 1950s/60s, which also proved to be a God-send.

Charlene, thank you for the giggle. Yes...! Well, I must say we have stupid politicians here in Canada too, but fortunately they are fairly innocuous. :-)

PhilipH said...

This has GOT to be the post of the year Jo. Brilliantly written, great rebuttal of some comments and thoroughly intelligent - as per usual.
I think you could now name your blog "An Outright Majority" and no mistake.
Great stuff, and so glad that Mark reproduced it too.

Jo said...

Philip, Hi! And thank you. As you can see, it is something I feel very strongly about, and listening to the American politicians *politicizing* it makes me very angry.

Linda Myers said...

Such a fine discussion!

Where I live, near Seattle, there's a vocal group of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. I think it started from the suspicion that the MMR was causing autism. I believe that has been debunked, but still.

We have a crazy medical system in the States. I look to the north with envy.

Jo said...

Linda, oh, yes, there should be a vaccination against ignorance like that. MMR does not cause autism, but dangerous childhood diseases are coming back because people are refusing to vaccinate their children. It's ignorance to the highest degree.

jrthumbprints said...

Jo, this is all fine and dandy; unfortunately, I deal with the lowest of low class folks who do not know nor care about sexually transmitted diseases ... they live for the moment. It's sad, truly truly sad, but I've spent too much energy trying to educate dummies. And for what?

We plod forward and try to make this world a better place and it's a constant struggle.

Jo said...

JR, Hi...! Nice to see you again. Well, yes, that is exactly why all school children should be vaccinated against HPV at an early age, so as they get older, it will be one less thing they have to be concerned about. As you well know, people are ... people, and we can't change human nature, but we can protect folks from certain diseases.