Gardasil Justice Slow In Coming In Columbia: Families Of Girls Sickened By Vaccine End School Lockout, Vow To Continue The Fight
The struggle for justice takes many forms, and last week a truly grassroots fight against government and corporate indifference evolved into a new format in Colombia.
You may have heard about the hundreds of girls there who were sickened after receiving Gardasil vaccine injections, and how their families, in the face of government indifference and at times outright mockery, resorted to striking the schools of the girls, padlocking the gates and holding marches and rallies outside.
After four days of this action, the government struck a deal with the strikers to convene a conference at which their grievances would be heard. The governor of the Colombian state of Bolivar, Dumek Turbay had a face-to-face meeting with the spokesperson appointed by the families to speak on their behalf, Monica Leon Del Rio of the Associacion Reconstruyendo Esperanza (Rebuilding Hope) and the Colombian Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria.
Among the demands for redress the families were seeking was comprehensive specialized health care for the affected girls to be provided by the government, as well as further testing for the girls who had been sickened.
For her part, Monica Leon Del Rio found the meeting to have its positives as well as negative aspects:
“This meeting left a bittersweet taste,” she said in a statement. “To start with, we could see a completely different attitude regarding the minors from the Colombian Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria. He demonstrated empathy and humanity, traits that have been absent when he responded to the complaints regarding the potential consequences of HPV vaccine administration over the last two years.”
Which is a great start. Unfortunately old habits–and prejudices–die hard. For one thing, the minister toed the party line when it comes to pro-HPV vaccine forces, stating that there was a possibility of genetic preconditions that could be affecting the girls, causing their symptoms–quite a remarkable statement on its own, considering that hundreds of girls in a small town of some 60,000 were affected.
It would take some mighty high odds for a genetic anomaly to be common to so many people who happen to live in the same area where this batch of HPV vaccine was administered.
And while the minister reiterated the government’s promises to help the girls with transportation to medical facilities, to facilitate speedier access to medical specialists for the girls, and to conduct university studies of Gardasil along with a few other items the families had demanded, the final stance of the government was less than heartening.
“The Health Minister reiterated his denial that these injuries were caused by the vaccine and repeated that the World Health Organization considers the vaccine to be safe,” Del Rio reported.
Justice is slow in coming, and as often as it comes in the form of a tidal wave it also comes in more like the slow erosion of a stream carving itself a new path.
The families of the girls have vowed to keep up the fight as long as it takes.