Readers Writer (March 26): HPV vaccine, achievement gap, guns, solar storm

  • Updated: March 25, 2013 - 7:57 PM

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Should fears be given credence? No. Yes.

Kudos to Gail Rosenblum for her March 24 column on the HPV vaccine (“HPV vaccine worries understandable, but unfounded”). Many journalists fall into the trap of providing a platform for such unfounded fears or seeking balance by giving the antivaccine movement space in their articles. I applaud Rosenblum for sticking to the facts and reporting the science truthfully and objectively.

The HPV vaccine is important not only because it protects women from cervical cancer, but also because it protects against several different cancers in both genders, including anal and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers. HPV is currently the leading cause of both of these cancers, and protecting our boys and girls from them is a cause worthwhile.

Karen Ernst, St. Paul

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It appears that a cost/benefit analysis is in order regarding the HPV vaccine. While human papillomavirus is contracted by the majority of sexually active men and women, it is naturally cleared from the body within two years by more than 90 percent of those infected. In addition, antibodies to the type contracted (of the more than three dozen known types of HPV) remain in the body to help prevent future reinfection with that type.

When HPV infection does not clear from the body naturally, the infection becomes chronic. Women with chronic HPV can develop cervical cancer and die. However, since Pap test screening became a routine part of health care for American women in the 1960s, cervical cancer cases in the United States have dropped 74 percent.

Regarding the Gardasil vaccine, there were thousands of reports of sudden collapse with unconsciousness within 24 hours, seizures, muscle pain, disabling fatigue, Guillain-Barré syndrome, facial paralysis, brain inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, blood clots, optic neuritis, strokes and other serious health problems, including death. Adverse event reports for Cervarix have been similar. As of August 2012, a total of 26,304 reports had been made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System associated with Gardasil or Cervarix, including 118 deaths.

So much for at least some of the costs of getting an HPV vaccination. The benefits are a bit more elusive. I’ll have to get back to you if I find any.

Pam McAlister, St. Paul

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Options are available for student of color

While it is true that an achievement gap exists between students of color and Caucasian students, the March 23 commentary by Eva Lockhart (“Achievement gap? More like a reward gap”) was premature, misguided and misleading.

The fact is that while some national scholarships have already been doled out, almost no local scholarships have. Those national scholarships are highly, highly competitive.

Locally, I hope Lockhart’s student Malik minimally applied for the Wallin Scholarship or the Page Scholarship. If he has applied to the University of Minnesota or St. Thomas, both have very generous scholarships for low-income students that he would be a near shoo-in to receive.

What is implied is that a student like Malik won’t be able to receive the funds necessary to attend college. If the young man fills out his FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it sounds like he will be eligible to receive a full Pell Grant, which would enable him to attend college for free through the Power of You program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. In addition, other state and federal assistance will be available.

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