HPV Vaccine Update

Gardasil, according to its maker, Merck, is for young women ages 9 to 26. The company says it “is the only cervical cancer vaccine that helps protect against 4 types of human papillomavirus (HPV): 2 types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases.”

Now a recent investigative report from Judicial Watch, which used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain more than 8,000 reports on adverse reactions to the drug, concludes that “as many as 18 young girls and women have died after receiving” Gardasil vaccinations.

But despite concerns about the drug’s safety effectiveness, lawmakers across America are considering forcing young women to receive the vaccine. According to a National Conference of State Legislatures report:

“Legislators in at least 41 states and D.C. have introduced legislation to require, fund or educate the public about the HPV Vaccine and at least 17 states have enacted this legislation, including Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.” [emphasis in original]

We examined the issue of HPV vaccine mandates last year in The HPV Vaccine: Government Mandates and Parental Rights. Gardasil is not the first potentially harmful pharmaceutical to be marketed by Merck, which is responsible for VIOXX, which caused at least 28,000 deaths in the U.S. before being pulled by the FDA, according to Dr. David Graham in his testimony (PDF) to the U.S. Senate.

Merck was subjected to withering criticism last year when the full extent of its massive lobbying campaign aimed at imposing HPV vaccine mandates was revealed. The company pushed lawmakers to force 11-year-old girls to receive the vaccine but under fire abandoned its lobbying efforts. Now, ironically, the company is marketing the drug by emphasizing “choice” rather than mandates in order to appeal to mothers to do what is best for their daughters.

Ten Gardasil-related deaths and 10 spontaneous abortions have been reported since September 2007, bringing the likely grand total to 28 lives lost since the drug’s 2006 FDA approval, not to mention the 27 life-threatening reactions, six cases of Buillain-Barre Syndrom (in which a vaccine causes paralyzes), and 107 other “serious” complications which according to CBS News include seizures and chronic pain.

HPV isn’t exactly a great threat to public health. There are over 100 strands of HPV, and most have no impact on health. A few cause warts, or papillomas, for which the virus is named. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), by age 50 more than 80% of American women will have contracted at least one strain of the 30 to 40 different genital HPV strains-14 are linked to cervical cancer, as well as anal cancer, vulvar cancer, head and neck cancers, and penile cancer. In most cases, the body naturally expels the HPV virus.

Parents and adult women should be left to decide for themselves if the HPV vaccine is worth the risk. It is not a decision for governments to make.

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