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Letter to the Editor

BY DI READER | DECEMBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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HPV editorial 'inappropriate'

I am disheartened by The Daily Iowan's editorial, "Recommend Pap smears, not vaccines." By highlighting the inflammatory opinion of a single physician, the DI Editorial Board has jeopardized the health of the public it serves — students compose the age group most affected by HPV. The board's role is not to dispense medical advice to students. Seeking to editorialize on cervical cancer is inappropriate, and it is morally wrong to contribute to misinformation regarding the vaccine.

A Pap smear is a scraping of cervical cells to screen for the effects of human papillomavirus (HPV). It does not prevent cancer. It is a diagnostic tool to discover pre-cancerous cells. Pap smears are important to continue regularly, but the HPV vaccine is a preventive measure. By preventing HPV infection, we can prevent cancers caused by the virus.

What Dr. Diane Harper refers to is a wildly literal interpretation of vaccine studies. The vaccines are new, so it is true that long-term effects upon cancer development have not yet been observed. We do know that so far in preliminary studies (including one published by Harper herself), the vaccines do prevent cancer.

It is telling that the DI used only Harper's widely publicized anti-vaccine rhetoric while ignoring the opinions of many excellent physicians and researchers to whom we entrust our health each day at the University of Iowa. I am surprised that the board would publish her literal interpretations of scientific results so assuredly without questioning her political motivations. By resorting only to sources widely available on the Internet, the DI has sacrificed its integrity and misled the student population.

I am hopeful that students will be vigilant about their health and consult with physicians regarding the vaccine if doubtful, and that the DI will refrain from irresponsibly dispensing such medical misinformation in the future.

Katie Ryken
UI senior


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