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

• • •

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

* * *


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.

The students who get priced out of a college education are not students with Malik’s profile. Rather it is the middle- and lower-middle-class students who receive little in the way of merit- or need-based aid.

Herb Crowell, Minneapolis


The writer is a counselor at Washburn High School in Minneapolis.

* * *


Background checks? Count me as skeptical

The article on the trail of the stolen gun being involved in many crimes was interesting, and illustrates the complexity of the problem (“One stolen gun blazes a violent path,” March 22). After the original owner, it appears that all of the people in the chain of events had criminal backgrounds or were already prohibited from having the gun.

One might say a tight system of background checks would have stopped this chain. My question is who would have been intercepted, because who of them would have complied with a background check law any more than any of the other laws they were breaking?

Kevin Johansen, Long Lake

* * *


Perhaps only hope for Gophers (ahem: men)

Thank you for the solar-storm watch. While the sun is billions of years old, I’m proud to be part of an 11-year cycle (“A sun storm could black out continents,” March 24). I will hunker down in the hope that humanity is not destroyed in the near future. What will happen next? The Gophers will win the NCAA tournament?

Vincent Harlan, Champlin