The subject of science easily lends itself to being applicable to society at large. The science, technology, and society component of this unit revolves around the HPV vaccine. I choose HPV as the viral infection to highlight throughout the unit due to its presence in the population of the United States. HPV is identified as one of the most common viral infections found among young people that are sexually active (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004). HPV infections can lead to cervical cancer if the infected individual's immune system fails to fight off the initial infection (Tortora, 2002).
published an article noting a possible connection between HPV and the development of genital nonmelanoma skin cancers within geriatric populations in the United States (Burfeind, 2007).
Currently, HPV is receiving a great amount of attention from physicians as well as politicians due to the recent introduction of a vaccine for HPV. The debate among politicians, physicians, and educators revolves around legislature mandating preadolescent girls to receive the vaccine before becoming sexually active. One idea behind the legislation is to reduce the transmission of HPV and reduce the amount of cervical cancer cases in the country. New Mexico and Virginia are two states that are currently working on legislation that will mandate vaccinations for female preteens in the near future (News & Notes, May 2007).
The pharmaceutical companies who develop and produce vaccinations also have various interests in promoting vaccinations of the general public. This unit is intended to educate students to determine whether or not pharmaceutical companies should be able to lobby and advertise for mandatory vaccination programs. Mandatory vaccination programs are a source of monetary gain for the pharmaceutical companies that develop and produce the vaccine. The pharmaceutical company may not have just the interest of public health in their desire to see their vaccine used in mandatory programs. Students should be aware of the business aspect of making vaccines and the ethical issues that can arise.
The students I teach are a mix of health science and business majors. I always try to slip in the business aspect of science because they go hand in hand when it comes to providing funding for research and the development of new biotechnologies. Many students believe science to be an entity all by itself void of any "business practices." The pharmaceutical industry is a large business/science field that I want to make students aware of so that I may engage them beyond any interests they have just about their personal health.
The culminating activity of this unit allows for the students to put their knowledge into action in their communities. The students will develop and present workshops that educate their peers and families concerning the transmission, prevention, and treatment of HPV.