"So, does anyone know anything special about the HepB vaccine? Anybody?"
We were all standing in a circle outside the shelter, about to open the free clinic and a medical school faculty member was quizzing us about the shots that would be given on Friday. I wracked my brain to try and come up with some ideas. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease prevalent in Asia and the Pacific, where vaccinations are uncommon. A lot of times, immigrants from these regions unintentionally transmit this disease to their American children at birth, raising their risk for cirrhosis and cancer.
"Yes, that's right! The HepB vaccine was the first of its kind to prevent cancer!" One of the MS-3s had nailed it on the nose.
A cancer vaccine? Hey, that sounds sort of familiar... weren't some Christian groups making a big hullabaloo about another STD vaccine that prevents cancer a while back? Cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)?
"There is something about the HepB vaccine that has stirred up controversy. Does anyone know?"
I bolstered my courage to try and chime in with what I knew about the cervical cancer vaccine and how "Family Interest" groups were afraid that it would increase pre-marital sex in teenagers because they would go wild, knowing that their risks of cervical cancer would be significantly decreased! Alas, that was the wrong answer.
"There was concern that the mercury contained in these vaccines were linked with an increase in autism. Since then, thimerosal has been removed from all vaccine for children. But you should know that there has been no scientific data to back up the mercury-autism link."
Gah. I should have known this one, as an avid reader of Respectful Insolence. He is on a crusade to rid the world of this misinformation.
"Our governor recently vetoed a bill that would ban all vaccines with thimerosal in them."
Of course. Gov. Lingle was worried that Hawaii would be vulnerable to the avian bird flu if we put these sorts of limitations on a safe product. She was bold enough to state that "this bill is objectionable because it restricts the use of FDA-approved vaccines for no scientifically sound reason." I am glad that she can see this... which makes me wonder. What made our state government decide to write up this bill of nonsense in the first place?