Monday, January 7, 2008

the only way to prevent cervical cancer?

About a year ago, someone (or someones) came up with the bright idea that they should force all 12 year old girls to have a vaccination against HPV. Well, actually we know who the someones were. The manufacturer which to date has made millions of bucks with this new vaccine, Gardasil.

Merck, has spent millions of dollars promoting this vaccine, using one of their best weapons, TV ads. Healthy slim smiling young ladies are shown in a PE class (in one of the ads) saying how happy they were to be "protected" against cervical cancer. In the background, one hears the necessary disclaimers "this vaccine does not protect against all types of cervical cancer nor does it prevent STD". But how many listen to the background disclaimers anyway?

The American College of Pediatricians came out with a statement against the forced vaccination of 12 year old girls with the HPV vaccine as a requirement to attend school in 2007. They brought up the following points:

1. the vaccine is tested but long term immunity is not known yet. The College suggests establishing data banks to trace how effective the vaccine is, on the long term. As the college stated "waning protection is an issue with almost every vaccine"

2. parents rights should be respected as to whether they want their girls to receive the vaccine or not. It may not be appropriate for MOST young girls unless it is known that they are very sexually active and having unprotected sex. Receiving the vaccine should be totally voluntary on the part of the individual, states the ACP and medical providers should inform parents that the ONLY TOTAL protection from infection is abstinence.

3. AT LEAST (that they know of) 30 percent of HPV is caused by strains NOT covered in the vaccine

4. the trials were only 2-4 years long - but the average time from infection with HPV to cervical cancer is 20 years (probably why some experts have opined that the vaccine may not be needed because pap smears identify atypical cells long before the person is in danger of cervical cancer and it can be treated at that time)

5. Basically the position of the ACP is that there are far too many questions yet to be answered about this vaccine, that cervical cancer can be prevented through regular pap smears and treatment of HPV long before there is a danger of cervical cancer and that parents rights and the right of the individual to make the decision whether or not to get the vaccine, should be respected.

It should be noted that in the double blind trials with the HPV vaccine, individuals in the vaccinated cohort showed 16.5 percent fewer procedures for cervical problems involving HPV and 25 percent fewer genital warts.... this is not exactly total protection considering that this vaccine can cause some rather serious repercussions like Guillian Barre' etc. We should also remember that these trials were run by the manufacturer of the vaccine - and in the Phen Fen trials, Ayrest-Wyeth admitted that removing negative results was "common practice in the pharmaceutical industry thus the less than impressive results from the Merck trials might have been "sanitized"....

The Chicago Sun Times also ran an OP-Ed against forced vaccination - their reasons were simple - parents should have the final say. The Sun Times pointed out that the jabs were expensive (about $120 bucks a piece) and that a series might consist of 3 of them.

Recently another news article described the vaccine injection as a big "OUCH" for many girls (some have fainted or gotten other reactions).

In this, as in all vaccines, parents should proceed with caution especially as the long term repercussions of the vaccine itself are not known (and many vaccines concern a type of mercury used for preservative, that some studies have suggested can raise the risk for certain disorders like Parkinson's). Also, most vaccines are only good for a couple of years and boosters are needed regularly to continue protection.

There is a much simpler way to protect our teens against HPV. This also protects teens against HIV, and STD as well as broken relationships. What is this magic bullet? Abstinence outside of marriage. The argument is, of course, that teens cannot abstain. I think this is underestimating our teens. I have yet to meet the teen who doesn't WANT to abstain after they really learn the repercussions of NOT abstaining. As the Gardasil vaccine has an "OUCH" factor and unknown protection and/or repercussions, shall we give teaching our teens about abstinence, a good try before allowing our daughters the Gardasil injection?