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 V.16 No.17 | April 26 - May 2, 2007 

Letters

Mandate Away

Dear Alibi,

[RE: Editorial, “Sex and (Bad) Politics,” April 12-18] I have focused nearly my entire career on studying human papillomaviruses (HPV) in New Mexico and other global populations. It is correct that my research group has contributed to HPV vaccine development and this fact is noted in the above-named article. I would like to clarify my position on Senate Bill 1174, which would have mandated all sixth-grade girls in the state to receive HPV vaccines. I applaud Gov. Richardson’s decision to veto this bill and the wisdom of his advisors to realize that the state was not prepared to deliver what was proposed. The governor’s decision was by no means an overreaction of the administration or its constituents but rather an appropriate response to a bill that was rushed, poorly written and did not incorporate some of the most critical components required to properly enable HPV vaccine mandate.

Before we consider further legislation on this matter, the governor has in effect acknowledged our need to have 1) the necessary allocation of dollars for associated infrastructure and resources required to deliver what is being proposed, 2) adequate preparation time for vaccine delivery by incorporating a “go-live” date with adequate lead time (two to three years following bill approval), 3) statewide education program rollout for our community of adolescents, parents and providers so that better and appropriate informed decision-making will be facilitated and 4) agreement by our state legislators that expert content advisors should help craft any legislation on this matter as our health is not something that should be left to an inadequately informed political process.

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my position on mandated HPV vaccination with opt out once the necessary funding, infrastructure and groundwork has been put into place. The reason I support vaccine mandate is because history has shown that any vaccine will not reach much more than 30-50 percent of the population without mandate. Mandate will improve bringing HPV vaccines to those who would be least likely to receive them (underserved and rural multicultural populations) and these same populations are likely to derive the most benefit from the vaccines.

Cervical cancer is a disease of disparities. Today more than half of all cervical cancers that remain are found in women who did not receive Pap tests in the past five years. It will be very unlikely that women who don’t go to the doctor for a Pap test will take their 11- or 12-year-old daughter to a doctor on three separate occasions for a three-dose vaccine. Through school-based vaccine delivery we have the best chance to overcome the disparities likely to affect who does and does not have access to HPV vaccines.

It is imperative that everyone in the state of New Mexico understand a few things about HPV vaccines as follows: HPV vaccines are only fully effective in girls and women who have not been previously exposed through sexual activity. This is why vaccinating young girls before sexual activity is important and why girls between 9 and 14 would be the appropriate age at which to vaccinate. The current HPV vaccines protect against only a few of the many HPV types causing cervical cancer. If you are currently infected with any HPV type, these vaccines do nothing to help you get rid of those infections. All girls and women who receive HPV vaccines must continue with regular Pap tests as if they never received the vaccine because there are many other HPV types not in the vaccines that can cause disease and Pap tests are the only way to find the disease. If there is any failure of women to get Pap tests because they have a false sense of protection from having received an HPV vaccine, the rates of cervical cancer in our state may increase instead of decrease as a result of HPV vaccines. Please do not let this happen. To be healthy and safe, young girls and women receiving HPV vaccine or not must all also receive regular Pap tests.

Dr. Cosette Wheeler

UNM Professor and Researcher

The Circus is in Town

Dear Alibi,

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center from April 26-29. The circus' cruelty to animals is indisputable.

Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls or jump through rings of fire. To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks and other painful tools of the trade.

The public has no idea that Ringling's handlers are taught to keep the animals afraid. Elephants, horses and camels get hit, punched, beaten and whipped by circus staff members. Everyone from the head of animal care to totally inexperienced handlers abuse animals. The abuse does not take place once in a while; it happens every day.

Two PETA investigators tracked Ringling at every stop of its 2006 tour. Out of public view, they documented on videotape that Ringling employees were viciously hitting elephants and striking them with bullhooks—a heavy, steel-tipped club that Ringling's handlers use frequently, until the animals bled and cried out, in addition to many other acts of cruelty.

According to eyewitness accounts, Ringling's head trainer viciously assaulted a sweet elephant who was chained by her front and back legs, unable to escape from the blows. For at least half an hour, the trainer beat her with a bullhook. At one point, the trainer swung the bullhook into the elephant's ear canal with all his force as she screamed in pain.

The abuses uncovered have led to multiple open investigations of Ringling by the U.S. government and have cost the circus a national tour sponsor. But Ringling still refuses to retire its abusive animal acts. For animals in the circus, another Ringling tour means another year of beatings and long days chained or confined to cramped, poorly ventilated boxcars.

I applaud trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns, tightrope walkers and acrobats, but let's leave animals in peace. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment—it's time for the U.S. to do the same.

Help stop Ringling's abuse in the name of family entertainment. You and I are the only hope these animals have.

Abolish slavery—boycott the circus!

Darren Pfeffer

Albuquerque

Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to letters@alibi.com. They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

 
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