The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Lisa Frankenstein was released to theaters Feb. 9th and was released to digital platforms Feb. 27.
"Lisa Frankenstein" Review
February 29, 2024
The program for SMU Lyric Theatres performance of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, Dallas Texas, Sunday February 18, 2024
Love, loss and laughter
February 27, 2024

Doctor doubts anti-cancer vaccine

There is no joke when it comes to cancer. The search for the cure is an unanimous effort. We would love to find a cure for cancer. Until then, cancer prevention vaccinations sound like a godsend. But what exactly are anti-cancers? Common HPV vaccination Gardasil is not exactly what we may have been led to believe.

In her lecture “Marketing the HPV Vaccine: Lessons for Consumers and Physicians” Sheila M. Rothman, Ph.D., discussed the relationship between professional medical associations and the pharmaceutical industry.

The lecture on Tuesday specifically addressed pharmaceutical company Merck’s aggressive marketing strategy for Gardasil, a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Gardasil protects against two high-risk HPV types, 16 and 18, of which are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancer, as well as two lower-risk types.

The FDA approved Gardasil in June 2006 as a vaccine against HPV. It was ambiguously marketed as an anti-cancer vaccine.

Rothman cited Beth Herskovits’s article, “Gardasil Campaign Taps Public Fear of Cancer,” explaining why this marketing strategy was so successful. Herskovits wrote, “[The strategy] banked on the public’s fear of the ‘C’ word,” which caused normally low-risk patients to get vaccinated.

Its message was that all females were at equal risk and that parents should vaccinate their daughters before the onset of sexual activity.

Merck’s marketing campaign ignored the disparities in cervical cancer rates versus other cancers, and that yearly pap smears would also reduce risk.

Many criticize Merck for failing to target the highest risk subpopulations for HPV: African-American women in the South, Latino Women along the Texas-Mexico border and Caucasian women in Appalachia. These subpopulations often do not have access to adequate health care, and are unable to get annual pap smears.

With controversial slogans such as “1 Less Life Affected by Cervical Cancer,” and “BE SMART, GET VACCINATED,” large portions of the population were vaccinated regardless of risk factor.

Rothman’s lecture gathered a large and engaging audience.

Kylie O’Donnell felt the lecture really hit close to home.

“I remember when the ads first came out, and my mother was saying ‘you have to get it,'” O’Donnell said.

Psychology major Helen Eshete believed that the outcome of the marketing was beneficial even though the “advertising was a little twitched.”

Dr. Rothman’s lecture was hosted by The Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility in collaboration with SMU’s Department of Anthropology.

Director of the Maguire Center Rita Kirk, Ph.D., explained that the center strives to promote student awareness of pertinent ethical issues. “Most people think of ethics as right and wrong, not as social responsibility,” Kirk said.

Sheila Rothman, Ph.D. is a professor of public health in the division of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health.

Rothman is also Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of Society and Medicine at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.

More to Discover