NEWPORT BEACH, CA – March 7, 2007 – The push to make Gardasil, Merck’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, aka the “cervical cancer vaccine,” yet another mandated vaccination is gathering steam.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends it for all females ages 9 to 26. In 2008, it will be a requirement for 11- and 12-year-old girls in Texas. Similar legislation has been passed in Virginia and is awaiting the governor’s signature, and thanks to Merck’s intense lobbying, a majority of other states are also looking at mandatory vaccination.
His vaccine is touted as being 100 percent effective against two strains of HPV associated with about 70 percent of diagnosed cases of cervical cancer. However, according to a study published in the February 28, 2007, issue of JAMA, only 2 percent of American women carry these two strains.
Most women exposed to HPV are able to fight it off naturally; only a very small percentage develop problems. There is no evidence that the majority of women will receive any benefit from this vaccine.
Although the vaccine appears to reduce the risk of precancerous changes in the cervix, it has never been shown to actually lower the death rate from cervical cancer. In any case, thanks to routine use of Pap smears and early detection, the death rate from this cancer has already fallen dramatically.
Mandatory vaccination would be a windfall profit for Merck. If all of the 34 million US girls and women in this target age range (9 to 26) got the HPV vaccine, which costs $360 for the three-shot series, Merck will stand to rake in more than $12 billion!
Approximately 12,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and fewer than 4,000 die of it. If-and this is a very big if-70 percent of these deaths were prevented by the HPV vaccine (and this would not be realized for decades), we’d be spending $3.5 million per life saved. It is difficult to put a price on a human life, but when you’re expending limited resources, you must. The upper limit of a cost-benefit ratio is generally accepted to be $100,000.
Last but not least, vaccines are not benign agents. Hundreds of reports of adverse reactions to the HPV vaccination have been submitted to the CDC in the past few months, some of them involving joint pain, seizures, and Guillan-Barré syndrome, a serious neurological disorder. And because this vaccine was fast-tracked through the FDA approval process; it just hasn’t been around long enough for long-term effects to be understood.
If parents wish to have their daughters immunized against HPV that is their prerogative. But vaccination should not be mandatory under any circumstance.
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