Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2008
Voice of experience pleads for vaccine for Grade 5 girls
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Audrey Harder doesn’t think the Church should oppose the Gardasil vaccine on the basis of it legitimizing promiscuous behaviour.
The retired Edmonton hairdresser says a woman can live a low-key lifestyle and still get infected with human papillomavirus, a sexually-transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. That happened to her. She got cervical cancer even though she was a virgin when she got married.
“I did not live a high-risk lifestyle,” she says. “I was in a marriage and my high risk was whom I was married to.”
Given her experience, Harder, a 64-year-old Baptist, thinks it is “negligent on the part of the Alberta bishops” to suggest offering the Gardasil vaccine to Grade 5 girls in the schools sends the message that early sexual intercourse is allowed as long as one uses protection.
“I think that’s just nonsense,” she said in an interview. “What about us who didn’t live a high-risk lifestyle and still got infected?”
HPV can only be transmitted through sexual activity. The Gardasil vaccine protects against the four strains of papillomavirus that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts.
Harder thinks if the vaccine had been available when she was a young girl, she probably would have never gotten cervical cancer.
She was a virgin when he married her husband in 1962. But her husband, who died in 1995, had acquired a sexually transmitted disease prior to their wedding and infected Harder with it.
They separated 20 years later. As they tried to reconcile in 1981, her husband once again infected Harder with an STD.
In 1986 Harder was diagnosed with cervical cancer which was treated with radiation. She was over-radiated during the treatment and ended up with a secondary tumour in the same spot that had been treated.
In 2000 she underwent almost 10 hours of surgery to get rid of the tumour, which left her with a series of problems. She lost her natural bladder and had to get a new one built, her urethra is completely closed up and she is having trouble with her lymphatic system.
Girls deserve vaccine
“I have a very good lifestyle so I am not complaining about my medical situation,” Harder said. “I am a very strong and basically healthy woman and I am not embittered by it. I just want to object as strongly and loudly as I can about these girls being denied this vaccine.”
Harder says even a girl who ends up living a high-risk lifestyle in the future deserves to be protected now through the Gardasil vaccine. “I have three granddaughters and I said to my daughter ‘Please as soon as this is available, get them inoculated.’”
Letter to the Editor - 10/20/08