The Issue That Just Won’t Go Away

The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has been much in the news lately with several of the Republican Presidential candidates stating an opinion regarding it. Consequently, we at The Vaccine Xchange have also been posting on the subject fairly frequently.

More people definitely deserve to know about the risks attached to the vaccine: it has been linked to Guillain Barre Syndrome, has been known to aggravate pre-existing HPV symptoms, and has not been tested against most adolescent vaccines. Since it protects against only two of the fifteen strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it is not terribly effective, either; and we cannot tell the success rate of the vaccine for even these two strains since the vaccine has only been given to young girls, whereas it is middle-aged women who most commonly develop cervical cancer.

With these serious flaws in the vaccine itself, how has the HPV vaccine become so commonly recommended? An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association examines just that issue, and uncovers some very disturbing facts.

The editorial points to a report that demonstrated that some of the foremost medical organizations – the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American College Health Association – helped market the vaccine to public and policy-makers alike using ready-made presentations, emails, and letters provided by the vaccine manufacturer. This marketing program began even before the vaccine trials were published, which means that the associations still did not know how effective and safe the vaccine was when they were marketing it. The enthusiastic marketing, however, even without this evidence, may have mislead their members to accept their clearly biased data as balanced and factual.

Another article mentioned in the editorial describes the adverse effects reported through the US Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) by vaccine recipients. We have mentioned these reports elsewhere; here, we need to remember that even those infected with HPV will likely not develop cancer if they undergo regular screening. As such, obviously, the vaccine itself is only useful if there is only a small risk of harmful effects. Yet the number of adverse effects associated with the vaccine on VAERS make it clear that it is possible that the risk is far higher than we may assume.

How could the medical associations continue to ignore such glaring problems? And with pharmaceutical companies lobbying our physicians so aggressively, how can we, as patients, ever know whether doctors are looking out for our health, or merely acting as marketing reps for the vaccine manufacturers? It is hard to reach an answer on these issues, but it is obvious that in today’s world, it is up to parents to do the necessary research before making an informed choice about whether or not to vaccinate.

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