League of Women Voters e-mail fingers “particularly resistant candidate”, falls silent when questioned

The League of Women Voters (LWV) claims to be fair and non-partisan in all that they do. Their local activities include organizing debates, putting together voter guides, performing voter registration drives, just to name a fee things. One of the local organizations that perform these allegedly “non-partisan” activities is League of Women Voters St. Peterburg Area (LWVSPA)

Yet despite their claims of being honest brokers, LWVSPA Voter Service Committee Chair Raechel Garafalo inadvertently referred to me (Tom Rask) as a “particularly resistant candidate”. This occurred in an e-mail accidentally sent to the me instead of its intended recipient.

Garafalo’s characterization was apparently based on a 2014 e-mail exchange between us when I ran for the Pinellas County Commission. There appears to be nothing in the exchange that would warrant such a negative characterization, but you be the judge.

Before publishing this article, I asked Garafalo these and other questions:

+ What does the LWV think I was “particularly resistant” to when I ran for office in 2014?
+ Does the LWVSPA have a list of “particularly  resistant” candidates? If so, please provide that list.
+ By which criteria does the LWV classify candidates in this fashion.
+ The person named Delia who you intended the e-mail for – is that Delia Miller? If not, who is it?
+ Do you intend to resign as Voter Service Committee Chair?

No response was received by the time of publication of this article. LWVSPA claims it “does not support or oppose any candidate for elective office”, but they seem to have a rather obvious internal bias towards some candidate(s).

The LWV of Florida has faced increasing criticism in Florida as they have advocated for Medicaid expansion and and opposed private school voucher expansion. They have similarly faced charges of having a leftist bias in Colorado.


The League has also run ads attacking Republicans in tight races and Democrats in safe races, and called such criticism evidence of their non-partisan nature.

Some people think I see out controversy, but here I was just minding my own business on a Tuesday evening when the LWVSPA e-mail arrived about events more than two years in the past.  They may have the memory of an elephant, but elephants they are not, if you catch my drift.


Tax Collector Diane Nelson calls herself “beloved”, spends tax dollars spreading the word

Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson approved a tax-dollar funded press release calling herself “beloved”. In announcing her retirement, a press release on March 30th had the following headline and subheadline:

It’s the end of an era


A public records request shows that Diane Nelson approved this wording. The press release calling herself beloved was sent out using public funds and resources. In approving what turned out to be the final draft, Nelson wrote “it reads very well.”

Susie Blanco, Senior Executive Assistant to Diane Nelson, questioned the used of the word “beloved” in an e-mail at 7:50 A.M. on March 29th. Blanco wrote to Public Affairs Manager Brenna Haggar and said “I wonder if we can find another word”.

However, Haggar didn’t alter the press release and didn’t respond to the e-mail questioning the choice of the word “beloved”. Instead, Haggar sent a final draft to Nelson and Blanco at 5:51 P.M. that same day and Nelson approved it at 6:43 P.M. The press release went out the next day. One can be certain that “recommending oneself” is something Ms. Manners would not recommend….or approve of.

Many internal e-mails on March 30th, the day of the press release, contain statements by Tax Collector staff expressing sadness over Nelson’s departure, or admiration for her. However, no one questioned the use of public funds and public resources to distribute a what best can be described as a hagiography produced using public funds.


Politicians care most about their reputations, and that’s why we can’t give them a pass when they tell us how wonderful they are. Nelson has been a passive tax collector, and done her constituents a disservice in the process. Some examples:

1/ Although systems exist elsewhere in the world that would allow people to not have to turn in their license plates when they are not driving a vehicle, Nelson has been all talk and no action since the idea was first raised with her in 2009.  She claims to be for it, but then does nothing to advance the cause. Citizens continue having to visit her office much more often than they would have to under a more efficient system.

2/ Nelson’ audit staff failed to spot hundreds of thousands of dollars of  undercollection and underpayment of taxes by Innisbrook resort . A citizen had to place it under their nose for them to find it.

When clear evidence was presented to Nelson’s office that Innisbrook willfully failed to amend their returns upon their discovery of their error, Nelson’s office still didn’t refer the matter for criminal prosecution. “Willfulness” is a key element in showing that the failure to pay was deliberate.

3/ A public records request further showed that Nelson’s office has not referred a single case for criminal prosecution for many years. Think about that: in all that tax collection they do in all of those offices, they want you to think they never found a single case of willful tax evasion. It looks like that what Nelson cared about most was “being liked”.

The person campaigning to be our new tax collector, Charles Thomas, claimed that their agency’s failure to spot any criminal wrongdoing “is actually a credit to our taxpayers. We have found our taxpayers to be cooperative and forthcoming in our dealings with them.” Most are “cooperative and forthcoming”, but some aren’t. Their unwillingness to spot those who aren’t is a sign of a poorly run and mediocre agency.

4/ While playing nice with the big resorts, Nelson nonetheless found time in 2013 to incorrectly assert that a local vacation rental agency owed a five figure amount in back taxes. Nelson based her assertion on a Florida Department of Revenue ruling from 1996.

At no charge, I agreed to help the vacation rental agency with the case. Without much effort, I discovered that the underlying Florida Administrative Code rule cited in the 1996 revenue ruling had changed. Nelson’s office had not bothered to check. In the end, no taxes were due, but I wouldn’t be surprised if her office continued to use that same inapplicable revenue ruling to collect taxes (and penalties….and interest) from other small businesses.


Charles Thomas, a Republican, is almost certain to be our new tax collector because he has no opponent and isn’t likely to have one. Thomas’ record and past comments suggest you can expect more of the same that you saw under Nelson. Which menas: more inefficient last-century administrative procedures, more of your time time unnecessarily spent going to and waiting “at DMV”, special treatment of large businesses, and harassment of smaller businesses who usually lack the resources to prove the tax collector wrong.

We the taxpayers fund all this mediocrity and corruption. If it was a B-movie, it would get 9% on RottenTomatoes.Com.

— Tom Rask

Cruz closing gap to Trump

Above is a headline that the establishment media won’t write. You can see the establishment headlines below. Ted Cruz narrowed the gap against  Trump last night, and now on March 6th has 295 delegates to Trump’s 378 (Rubio has 123).

Yet as you can see below: none of the headlines talk about the gap narrowing. Both NBC and Slate even claim that Cruz’s win is a boost for Trump. Slate’s argument is that “Cruz will have more trouble solidifying an anti-Trump coalition than Rubio” and that  “Cruz’s success may also mean that the GOP establishment, which despises the Texas senator, will not go all out to stop Trump.”  


Now why would “the GOP establishment” (as Slate calls the Republican establishment) despise someone who is “off-the-charts brilliant” in the opinion of his liberal Harvard professor, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Why would they despise such a person? Could it be because they are afraid that Cruz will upset some apple carts?

If so, then there must be some serious money in them apples. Of course the establishment doesn’t want to give up its patronage and privilege, that’s why they’re fighting so hard to preserve the status quo.

Cruz received twice the number of votes than Trump in Kansas last night, even though the so-called “polls” showed Cruz trailing Trump by 6% as late as Friday. So much for the polls, huh? And so much for the presstitutes in the establishment media, a dishonorable group of sellouts who almost always have a hidden agenda in whatever they do. They’ll lie about Trump and Cruz, they lied about Carson when his numbers were good. They’ll lie about any non-establishment candidate who they perceive as a threat to their ruling class masters.

Some times, they don’t lie. They just remain silent. At 8:20 A.M. this morning, there was no mention of Cruz’s big victory last night on their website. This on the website of Florida’s largest newspaper. Not a word. Everybody know’s why – the Tampa Bay Times is bought and paid for, which became quite clear when their owner accidentally released this information two years ago.

Never mind the lying because it won’t stop the winds of change from blowing. If we don’t get that change in 2016, we’ll get it in 2020. And if we don’t get it at all, then the specter of bloody unrest looms. Nobody wants it to come to that.

Finally, a shout-out to Donald Trump for calling on Rubio to drop out so that the primaries become a clear choice between Trump and Cruz. This could prove to be detrimental to Trump, and I’m not a Trump supporter. But I commend Trump for calling on Rubio to drop out because he is 100% correct on that point.


Trump – a Creature of the Swamp

You may heard the story that Washington D.C. was built on a swamp. It turns out that this story is an urban legend. However, it’s clear that Washington D.C. is  a swamp infested with corruption and dishonor. Our politicians suffer from malaria odipopulus, or in common parlance “a feverish and pathological hatred of the people”. Perhaps that’s why the politicians continually subvert the will of the people.

From day one, the political establishment figured that The Starship Donald would fall from orbit and burn up on re-entry into the Realpolitik atmosphereWell, they were wrong. It isn’t the first time “the elites” were completely wrong.

swampcreature.Swamp dwellers of D.C.: look yourselves  in the mirror, because YOU are to blame for what you now lament. YOU created a path for Trump by subverting the will of the people for so many years. In the end, Trump is therefore a Creature of YOUR Swamp.

Like the woman on the bed in the picture to the right, many Americans are wondering: what will happen next? Will he savage me or carry me to safety? Time will tell…

The establishment is trying to fool all of the people all of the time. That won’t work, Lincoln knew so when he famously said “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” We need to look no further than to Lincoln to understand the anti-establishment wave.

Yet I will look further: should Trump be elected, it wouldn’t be the first time in human history that a strongman with a five-letter name was elected to “clean things up”.  No, I’m not thinking of Hitler, although he was indeed elected. No, I’m thinking of the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who actually was elected to the post as dictator by the Roman Senate.

sullaSulla (pictured on right) went about “cleaning things up” in a rather brutal way, yet managed to walk the streets without body guards once out of office.

The point is: Sulla definitely had popular support. That was a different time and place, but human nature has not changed that much in 2,000 years. You can’t subvert the will of the people forever.

In more recent times, the establishment was asleep as Jimmy Carter locked up the nomination in 1976 before Ted Kennedy could get out bed. An an aside, the world still wonders whose bed Ted Kennedy was late getting out of.

On the Republican side in that same year, Ronald Reagan came very close to taking the nomination from President Gerald Ford. My point is this: the establishment isn’t nearly as smart as they think they are. In fact, they’re fat, dumb and happy. The establishment usually is.

dailynews-frontpage-0616I’m a bit of an oddball: a non-religious supporter of Ted Cruz. Some call me stupid because of that. But even old stupid here understands that trying to insult an insult comedian won’t work.

The New York Daily News should ask itself how much sway it really has in light of the continued surge in popularity for Trump since their juvenile front page in June of 2015. Members of the Dead Tree Society, like the Daily News, can then go back to going out of business and increasing irrelevance.

I would describe Donald Trump as running a vulgar campaign. That term is meant to be descriptive, not an insult to Trump supporters, nor is it meant as a snobbish comment. And given the state of the nation, I’ll vote for a vulgarian candidate over any establishment candidate.

To be sure: I will hold my nose and cross my fingers, but at the end of the day I will vote for the machine-breaker. I will do so precisely because I hope he is a machine-breaker.

Marco Rubio’s immigration plan fails basic scrutiny, defies logic

On the Republican side of the 2016 presidential race, Marco Rubio is the establishment’s “plan B”, with Jeb Bush being their first choice. However, as shown below, Rubio’s record is problematic and makes him unelectable.

The pro-establishment Wall Street Journal recently had to acknowledge that Marco Rubio’s multiple flip-flops on immigration in fact damage his prospects of becoming president of the United States. Rubio ran on “securing the border” in his 2010 Senate campaign, but then abandoned that position in 2013 in favor of what he called “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”.  Rubio was one of the authors of that particular piece of misguided legislation, put together by the so-called “Gang of Eight”.

rubio_wall_editedIn May 2015, Rubio “still believed” that we need immigration reform, but that “the votes aren’t there” in Congress. In that same interview, Rubio said four (4) times that the reason to take a different path is because of insufficient votes in Congress. Marco Rubio did not say one word about the well-founded lack of trust the American people have in government at all levels, and the mistrust of career politicians like Marco Rubio and their true motives.

Now (December 2015) Rubio’s campaign website  is singing a different tune than before. Marco Rubio now says this about the “comprehensive immigration reform” he worked so hard for in 2013:

“Achieving comprehensive reform of anything in a single bill is simply not realistic. Having tried that approach, I know this to be true firsthand. The fear that such massive pieces of legislation include some clever loophole or unintended consequence makes it even harder to achieve.”

In other words: if Rubio could only neutralize this crazy “fear”, then he could really “achieve” things. In trying to move back to his original 2010 position, Rubio insults the voters by characterizing their well-founded views as “fears”. Good luck with that as a campaign message.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 contained many promises that were never kept. These are the same promises that are being made now. Even the leftist liberal New York Times called it “the failed amnesty legislation of 1986.” Here is how the Times describes it:

“President Ronald Reagan signed that [1986] bill into law with great fanfare amid promises that it would grant legal status to illegal immigrants, crack down on employers who hired illegal workers and secure the border once and for all. Instead, fraudulent applications tainted the process, many employers continued their illicit hiring practices, and illegal immigration surged.”

That is the undisputed history of the last “effort” at immigration reform. Mr. Rubio’s use of inaccurate and insulting terms like “fears” to describe well-founded concerns serves a purpose: to signal to Rubio’s establishment “open borders” supporters that he will one day return to their position.  It is the Way of the Weasel.

As an immigrant myself (from Sweden, at age 18), there is nothing I “fear” about immigration per se. However, I do not have much patience for spineless windvanes like Mr. Rubio who seek to paint reasoned opposition as “fears”. Had he said “well-founded fears”, I would not have called him out as a weasel.

rubioThanks to modern technology, Mr. Rubio’s record on core issues is being spread far and wide. Analysis of data from the 2014 election shows that the establishment is losing its grip on power. That trend keeps getting stronger every day thanks to social media. The moral bankruptcy of the so-called establishment and their mouthpieces like Marco Rubio explains the popularity of non-establishment candidates in the Republican primary race in 2016. Mr. Rubio may be likeable on a personal level, but he is not a leader – he has already demonstrated that.

It’s too bad for Marco Rubio that he was so out of touch with his own constituents when he sponsored “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (CIR) in 2013. It’s too bad because it is what will doom Marco Rubio as a candidate, especially after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Rubio flipped, then flopped back, and looks like a wet waffle on the related issues of immigration and national security.

Furthermore, Marco Rubio’s current immigration plan naive and shallow. On his campaign website, Mr Rubio says:

“Those here illegally must come forward and be registered. If they have committed serious crimes or have not been here long enough, they will have to leave.”

Hey, Marco! Those who know they will be deported will not “come forward.” They can read the rules as well as anybody else. You have to either be very naive or a brazen liar to hold the views that Mr. Rubio holds.

Below: yes, idiots like this do exist…and they vote.

no-borders700Rubio’s amnesty plan also says that those who stay must “learn English”. But no clear thinking person believes that the federal government is going to force a Mexican grandmother unlawfully residing in the US to “learn English”. Nor do people believe that if she fails to learn English to a certain level, the federal government will deport her….or deport anybody else for that matter.

Not only is Mr. Rubio’s intellectually dishonest in making this proposal, it flies in the face of the history of how “immigration reform” played out after the 1986 law was passed. The “language requirement” in the 1986 law was that unlawful residents “demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language”. Through the bureaucratic magic of the “rule-making process”, this instead became monetary grants so that states could give unlawful resident free English courses…..at the taxpayer’s expense. And not even one person was asked to leave the country for failing to meet the language “requirement”. That’s quite the toothless “requirement” they have there, wouldn’t you say?

The main concern for most taxpayers is that immigrants will demand that tax dollars be used to provide information or services in other languages.  Recent history shows us that this is an exceedingly valid concern.


In summary: Mr. Rubio’s immigration plan is not worth the paper it is written on. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are at least willing to fight for the middle class, whereas Marco Rubio can’t wait to sell the middle class even further down the river in order to please his elitist sponsors.

As stated at the outset: Marco Rubio is an establishment candidate. This means that he represents entrenched wealthy and powerful groups who like things the way they are. It is not hard to understand why such “Republican” politicians surrender to Democrats because they are two sides of the same elitist coin. And neither side of that coin is your side.

Heads they win, tails you lose. That is the Establishment Way.

The Obamacare marriage penalty

On December 2, 2015, the public radio station (WUSF) here in the Tampa Bay area ran a story about what they called the “family glitch” in Obamacare.  As you will see in this article, this alleged “glitch” is misnamed and should instead be called what it is: the Obamacare marriage penalty. Furthermore, the evidence shows that this is not a “glitch”, but rather a feature of yet another ill-conceived federal program.

First, the terminology: what some people call “Obamacare” is the nickname for the federal law called the “Affordable Care Act”. Often abbreviated the ACA, some critics call it “ZeroCare” because it doesn’t actually provide care. Instead, the ACA requires you to buy health insurance. If you can’t afford to buy the kind of health insurance the government says you need, you don’t necessarily get care or subsidized health insurance. Instead, you get a fine from the IRS. Below is the story of one such “fined” young person.

sherry_poulinThe public radio “news report” told the story of  a  Fort Myers woman named Sherry Poulin (pictured on right) who has a chronic medical condition. Ms. Poulin actually had subsidized (=taxpayer funded) health insurance for herself and her child through the ACA, and this insurance only cost her $50 per month.  But Ms. Poulin made a big mistake in 2014: she got married. You see, her husband Louis works for an employer who offers “affordable health insurance” (as that term is defined under the ACA). As a result of getting married, Ms. Poulin lost her subsidy, and the plan her husband’s employer offered Ms. Poulin and her child cost “about $500 per month” according to Ms. Poulin.

The outcome of all this? Ms. Poulin now has no health insurance.

It’s fairly easy to understand how Ms. Poulin uninsured herself. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more employees must offer “affordable” health insurance options to employees in order to avoid federal tax penalties for themselves. An affordable plan for the employee can’t cost more than 9.5 percent of the household income. But the plan for the rest of the family does not have to be “affordable”.

The bottom line is this: the entire family becomes ineligible for subsidies if the coverage offered for just the employee is “affordable”…regardless of whether the family coverage is “affordable”.


You can read the rest of Ms. Poulin’s story yourself, including the part where Ms. Poulin’s mother says that the fact that her daughter now has no health insurance “breaks her heart”. But Ms. Poulin’s mother, Laura Brennaman, isn’t just anybody. She is the policy director for Florida CHAIN, a group that “advocates for affordable health”.

Florida CHAIN and Ms. Brennaman have been major supporters of the ACA . It wasn’t even six months ago that Ms. Brennaman said in a Tampa Bay Times article that the ACA “is doing what is it supposed to do.”  Yet when her daughter now is negatively impacted, Ms. Brennaman uses her media contacts to run a tearjerker story without first looking at some the solutions available to her daughter and granddaughter.

The simplest solution would have been for Ms. Poulin to not get married in the first place. In fact, all the alleged “ACA Marketplace Success Stories” that Florida CHAIN publicizes appear to involve unmarried mothers (or perhaps women married to men whose employers offer no health insurance). The strategy is simple: live with your partner, but don’t marry that partner. Or marry a partner whose employer offers no health insurance. Then the government will reward you using other people’s money.

Before we go on, let’s pause and reflect on the irony here. Ms. Poulin’s mother is a healthcare “policy director” for a pro-ACA organization….yet the mother failed to save her daughter from a pitfall that her organization has “saved” many other women from.

Divorce cartoonEnough about what Ms. Poulin shouldn’t have done. The situation at hand is that Ms. Poulin did get married, so what is she to do now? One simple solution is for Ms. Poulin to separate or get divorced from her husband Louis, but continue living together. Ms. Poulin and her daughter will then once again qualify for subsidies (or Medicaid). The taxpayers, including those who cannot afford health insurance, will surely understand that they must subsidize Ms. Poulin. No?

You might think that divorce is a cruel suggestion, but why should Ms. Poulin be exempted from the hard decisions other Americans are being forced in to by ZeroCare? One impoverished couple in Tennessee had been married for 33 years, but have now separated so that the epileptic wife with spinal stenosis and rods in her back can receive taxpayer-funded healthcare.  Meanwhile, the 62 year old husband lives without health insurance and hopes that this hernia won’t cause a bowel obstruction. Read the full story here if you wish.

HowTheGlitchStoleHealthcare_editedTo be clear: I am not saying “punish Ms. Poulin for the actions of her mother”. What I am saying is that the IRS, as administrators of the ACA, has ruled that the language of section 36B of the ACA was clear. The IRS’s decision was published in the Federal Register three years ago and no one has successfully challenged their interpretation in court since. All the facts thus tell us that the IRS interpreted the law correctly. Therefore, I say to Ms. Poulin: live with the outcome. Embrace the outcome and the great wisdom of ZeroCare! The tax code does not exist in order to satisfy your desire for a white wedding and your desire to be a married woman.

Florida CHAIN, the group behind this fake tearjerker story, has repeatedly used and promoted the term “family glitch” (here, here and here as just a few examples) to describe the outcome discussed in this article. But this negative outcome that they call “the family glitch” ONLY occurs when people get married. Therefore, it is a consequence of getting married and has nothing to do with being a family.

Let me use the language of the left for a paragraph: Florida CHAIN demeans single moms and all unmarried couples by saying they are not a family until they are married. Their non-inclusive (and therefore hateful) use of the term “family” must stop. That is why I have written to Florida CHAIN and demanded that they stop their use of the hateful and non-inclusive term “family glitch”. Gotta stop haters from hating.

Having established that single moms and their brood are also families, let’s note that Sherry Poulin can still call herself and her daughter a family after she divorces her husband. Cruel? No, I am just using the alleged “logic” of the left.

efficiency_expert_welfare_770705Organizations like the Brooking Institution and others have repeatedly told us to “celebrate single mothers”. CNN tells  single mothers to “stand proud”.  However, 37% of single moms lack financial self-sufficiency, whereas that number is 7% for married-parent families.  Also, children from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime, twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems and twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school. These children face a much bleaker future, and this is nothing to celebrate. Read more on the downsides of single-parent families here.

Without denigrating any single parent, let’s acknowledge that the data shows that having two parents in a household is preferable to having one.  It’s better for the children, it’s better for the parents and it’s better for the taxpayers who otherwise have to pay. The misguided “celebrate single moms” ideology of the self-named so-called progressives (a.k.a. regressives) ignores economic realities, is contrary to what history has repeatedly demonstrated,  and also flies in the face of human nature.

obamacare glitch edited

Finally, we must address the claim that Obamacare’s penalty on marriage is just a “glitch”. No, it isn’t. Like most other federal policies and laws, Obamacare discourages marriage, discourages work, discourages self-reliance and will lead to economic collapse.  Policies like Obamacare always do, and history tells us so.

Let’s call the misnamed “family glitch” what it is: a marriage penalty. It isn’t the first marriage penalty in federal law, and it won’t be the last.

When the collapse of all social safety nets arrives, you’ll know who to hold responsible. Elected officials and “leaders” who embrace statism and/or give in to pressure from groups like Florida CHAIN deserve whatever outcomes and “glitches” come their way.


UPDATE – after publishing, I asked a single mother to review my article. I wanted to make sure that nothing appeared angry, hateful or gratuitous, because that was and is not in my heart.  I did want the article to be a bit caustic, a bit strident…but most of all: effective.

My friend wrote and said: “Excellent article. In my opinion you hit all the main points. My situation was that I was divorced when my children were both under 5 and remarried when my youngest went to college. We were not rich, and I could not afford a car for the longest time. I had to get around with my young kids on our local transit buses.

It’s a source of pride with me that during my almost 20 years of raising my kids alone, and deadbeat dad contributing NOTHING, I took not one penny from the government.

I am sick of society praising, actually encouraging, single motherhood, many women choosing that path, and then whining about being a single mother. That just ticks me off.”

Those are the opinions of one single mom, and I am sure there are others.


What does the term “medically effective” mean to you?

On January 25th, 2015, the Tampa Tribune published an article with the following headline: “Despite benefits, vaccination rate for HPV remains low in Florida”.  In the article, Dr. Susan  Vadaparampil of the University of South Florida Moffitt Cancer Center was quoted as saying that the reason to give the HPV vaccine to children at age 11-12 is because it is “the most effective at that age”. 

This statement seemed odd to me: why would it be more effective at 11-12 than at say at age 16-17? I looked around for scientific articles to back up Dr. Vadaparampil’s claim, and found nothing to support her claim. In fact, I found a scientific study showing there was no special benefit to giving the vaccine at such an early age.

Therefore, I wrote to Dr. Vadaparampil and asked for substantiation. She kindly responded and said a few things. First, she said “immunogenicity is greater in younger versus older adolescents”. However, the study she cited said they found noninferior immunogenic responses”,  regardless of age or gender. In other words: good results, regardless of age at vaccination.

Also, it seems that what is most important is the chance of being infected after being vaccinated. The study I cited to Dr. Vadaparampil showed that “zero HPV breakthrough was seen in a group of 776 patients vaccinated and then followed for 6.4 years.” These women were ages 15-25 when vaccinated…..not 11 or 12. And yet no infection followed after vaccination.

Secondly, Dr. Vadaparampil said that “as a preventative strategy, the vaccine is most effective when administered prior to the onset of sexual activity”. However, to vaccinate all 11-12 year old children because some may become sexually active seems misguided, given that newer and better HPV vaccines keep coming out. If possible, it is better to wait until your children are older and let them weigh the benefits and make the decision themselves.

Thirdly,  Dr. Vadaparampil  stated that “other routine adolescent vaccines (against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and meningococcus) are also recommended to be administered at age 11 or 12 years, “this making it an viable time to “effectively” get the vaccine to this age group.” Such use for the term “medically effective” is problematic.

When hearing the term “medically effective”, most people think this is a scientific term based on outcomes. They don’t think it is a term based on how hard it is to get kids to visit the pediatrician’s office after after 12.

Unbeknownst to Dr. Vadaparampil, I also asked the American Cancer Society (“ACS”) for support for their own “medically effective” claim. I did this because Dr. Debbie Saslow of the ACS, had also been quoted in the same Tampa Tribune article. Dr. Saslow also kindly answered.

Dr. Saslow cited two different studies (Pedersen et. al. study, and Block et. al. study) showing a “greater” immune response when the vaccine is administered earlier. Dr. Saslow also cited the issue of HPV exposure, saying that the study I cited was for “individuals who were not previously exposed to the virus”. Taking this point, I would then ask if the breakthrough rate is any different for those who have been exposed. “Getting infected”….that is the only thing that matters in the end.

The third thing Dr. Saslow cited was the same as Dr. Vadaparampil did, but in different words. Dr. Saslow wrote:

“The implementation of vaccination is more effective for ages 11-12 than older. While many parents do continue to take their teen children to health care visits, the numbers decline rapidly during the teen years. So for the population as a whole, it is more effective to vaccinate when more kids go to the doctor and when they are getting other shots as well .”

My concern is with the questionable use of the term “medically effective”….and nothing else. “Medically effective”  has a very precise meaning in e.g. pharmacology, and that meaning has nothing to do with whether you can get the patient to come to the doctor’s office in the first place to get the prescription. If the general public is to trust the medical establishment when they speak, they should take care to how they use terms like “medically effective”.

Merck managed to have Gov. Rick Perry  mandate Gardasil as a vaccine in Texas in 2007. Think about that: the governor didn’t mandate that kids be vaccinated….he mandated that they be vaccinated with one particular company’s product. This after governor received a campaign contribution and was lobbied by his former chief of staff, who was by then the Merck lobbyist in Texas.

Merck was also the manufacturer of the now withdrawn drug Vioxx, a drug used to treat arthritis. Merck had to withdraw the drug when data showed that Vioxx caused an elevated risk of heart attacks and strokes. This was major news back in 2004.

Sometimes, people just want to wait for as much information as possible to come in before making a decision. Being hustled along to make unnecessarily early decisions is not helpful in that process.

P.S. I am not a doctor, but have two science degrees. My kids are vaccinated for everything except HPV. They will have to make their own decision regarding HPV vaccination.