Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Mail attempts to kill off a few more readers

According to the Mail, pretty much everything gives you cancer. And pretty much everything also prevents cancer. And a miracle cure for cancer is just around the corner. So you'd think they'd be in favour of a scheme that can actually prevent people getting cancer. Right?
HMV voucher bribe for teenage girls to have cervical jabs: Fury at ‘promiscuity scheme’ as NHS faces cuts
I read this and splurted coffee all over my screen. I wiped it down and read the opening paragraphs:
"Teenage girls are being bribed with high street shopping vouchers to receive a highly controversial vaccine. A health trust is promising them £45 in tokens for stores such as HMV, Argos and Debenhams if they agree to the cervical cancer jab, which protects against a sexually-transmitted virus that can cause tumours. Opponents say the vaccine - dubbed the 'promiscuity jab' - encourages girls to have sex earlier than they would. "
Oh dear lord. The HPV vaccine saves lives. The medical world is in total agreement on this - there isn't even an Andrew Wakefield-style loon carving out a career saying it actually gives you cancer or makes you grow an extra arm or some such.

Now there may be ethical questions about "bribing" teenagers to have any kind of medical treatment, as the Mail acknowledges:
Professor Theresa Marteau, from the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health, said there is evidence that paying for girls to have vaccines can work. But she added: "There is a concern that if you give that amount of money to young people, they will run along to get the money and not pay attention."
Fair enough. Let's have a debate about that shall we? After all, this story has been lifted wholesale from a Radio 4 documentary that looks at this very issue. Is it right to use "incentives" to achieve medical outcomes.

But the Mail prefers to try and whip up some FURY about girls being bribed to be promiscuous. And who do they turn to for this? Why, it's one-man moral campaign "group" Norman Wells:

"This is yet another example of public money being thrown at a problem that has its roots in declining standards of morality. There is already evidence that the vaccine is giving some girls a false sense of security and leading them to think that because they have been vaccinated they are protected against the worst effects of sexual promiscuity and can therefore engage in casual sex without consequences."

The only FURY here comes from a self-appointed moral guardian with no statistical or medical evidence to back up his case - note that he boldly states that there is "evidence" that teenage girls are sleeping with more men because they've had the HPV jab. For a man so concerned about such issues you'd think he'd be able to point to a study or some research to back this up, but no. Even his own website makes no such evidence available. Yet the Mail not only takes his claim as fact, it also bases the entire story around it!

Calling the HPV vaccination process a "promiscuity scheme" in the headline is grossly, sickeningly irresponsible. As Cancer Research UK points out:
"It is not correct to say that women who get cervical cancer have it because they were promiscuous (slept around). After all, you could have only slept with one man and still caught the virus if he had it. If he's had lots of partners, that will increase your risk, because it indirectly exposes you to possible sexual infections from lots of other people."
But that doesn't fit the Mail's story, so the facts, provided by the experts, are cast aside.

When the Mail became convinced that the MMR jab caused autism, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the number of children being vaccinated against measles fell and the number of measles cases soared. Children DIED and were left disabled as a result of such irresponsible reporting but has the Mail learned its lesson? Has it fuck.

How many Mail-reading parents will see this article and think "Gosh, I didn't realise the HPV vaccine would encourage my daughter to sleep around". How many girls will miss out on this treatment as a result? How many girls will miss the opportunity to be vaccinated - the jab has to be given before a girl becomes sexually active - and how many women will get cancer as a result?

They ought to be ashamed of themselves.


enhughesiasm said...

Wow. Just caught up on all today's posts. All great, though this one is particularly brilliant.

I wish I had something more constructive to say, but there's nothing more to add other than wishing that this blog was required reading along with any copy of the Mail.

I can dream...

P. Stable said...

Thank you.

I worried this one was a bit ranty. I'd felt the anti-Mail rage rising all morning and then I read this story and my brain exploded...

Anonymous said...

Norman Wells is an absolute tosser. His "group" publishes papers claiming condoms are useless, that the UN Children's Rights Committee has a "radical agenda", and that sex education facilitates "juvenile Lotharios and their Lolitas". It's a disgrace every time the Mail gives his squalid little group airtime.

P. Stable said...

He's one of those reliable rent-a-quote guys who can always be relied upon to be outraged about anything.

See also Norman Brennan, the only member of both the Victims of Crime Trust and Protect The Protectors (which campaigns for police officers to be routinely armed).

I'm always wary of any person or group who claims to speak on behalf of everyone in the country - the Taxpayers' Alliance being a case in point.

I sometimes ponder setting up an elaborate scam / performance art project whereby I create an insane "campaign group" for the sole purpose of supplying the tabloid press with angry quotes.

Press Not Sorry said...

Who, apart from The Fail and Norman Wells, has dubbed it 'a promiscuity jab'? What, teenage girls get the jab and it contains some secret government chemical that changes them all into raging nymphos overnight?

I am sick to death of this kind of irresponsible health reporting. The Fail is an anti-vaccine paper (unless you read the Irish version, which isn't), we know that, but this vaccine protects girls from CANCER ffs, The Fail's pet obsession.

The Fail also has a rather unhealthy obsession with young girls, as can be seen by the 'all grown up now' type pictures of celebrity children they like to print, and I think their habit of moralising on the subject of young people having sex is disingenuous.

If so much as one girl doesn't have this injection because of Fail scaremongering and subsequently contracts HPV, The Mail will be responsible if she then goes on to develop cervical cancer. It's time for a massive health warning to be printed across the front of it.

(Sorry, small rant. The Fail succeeds at making me angry once again.)

Aoife said...

Excellent post.

Stories like this are so dangerous, as you rightly point out.

The average age to loose one's virginity in the UK is still 16-17. Those who do so younger, rather than being cut off from any help, should be given access to contraception, and to people to talk to about decision making, delay and risk-taking.

Absolutely nobody working in sexual health - be it condom schemes, HPV vaccinations, assertiveness education, or chlamydia screening - is out there wanting young people to have sex earlier. They are there to minimise risk, increase choice and help young people.

As has been stated before, there is no evidence that such measures increase promiscuity or earlier sexual activity.

P. Stable said...

Look at the second half of the headline:

"Fury at ‘promiscuity scheme’ as NHS faces cuts"

Reading that you'd think the NHS was wasting money teaching kids to sleep around rather than attempting to protect them from a life-threatening illness.

Weirdest of all, the paper cites cuts to the cancer care budget as the flipside of this hugely expensive promiscuity scheme.

They're actually complaining about a scheme that will REDUCE the number of people who get cancer, and saying the money should be spent on people who already have it instead.

The NHS is never the zero-sum game the tabloids like to make out - it's not a matter of cutting funding on X treatment to increase it on Y treatment - but even so, I suspect the costs involved in the HPV vaccination programme are a tiny fraction of the costs involved in treating all those extra cancer victims. And that's before you get onto the cost to the economy of people taking time off sick. And, of course, the human cost of people dying - let's not forget that cervical cancer kills a thousand people in the UK every year - that's roughly one every nine hours.

All rather depressing. I think the best thing to do at moments like this is kick back and enjoy the Daily Mail Song.