Monday, January 18, 2010

Irish Health Minister introduces Cervical cancer vaccine for teens

In 2008, the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, announced that 30,000 school-children were to be offered the Gardasil cervical cancer vaccination, at a cost to her Department of approximately €15m/€16m, this decision however was subsequently rescinded. On Friday last 15th January Minister Harney announced that this programme will now proceed and that 30,000 girls in first year in secondary school are to be offered the cervical cancer vaccine from later this year at a cost of €3m.(Irish Times article)

Cervical cancer is caused chiefly by the Human Papilloma Virus, which is contracted through sexual activity. What, then, is the provision of a cervical cancer vaccination to young girls saying to them, and what is it saying to their parents? To my mind (and many other parents agree with me) it is saying that – ‘We know that your daughter will probably be sexually active while she is still in school, or she might be.’

We blogged on this issue on several occasions and sent an open letter to Minister Harney at that time pointing out that apart from the obvious moral objections there had been very a very significant level of adverse reactions to the vaccine. We pointed out for example that in 2007 and up to mid 2008 deaths attributed to the vaccine were running at one per month (10 deaths in 10 months). The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration agency) we said,
“also produced 140 "serious" reports (27 of which were categorized as "life threatening"), 10 spontaneous abortions and six cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome - all since January 2008. The watchdog group says the number of deaths associated with the vaccine is at least 18 and possibly as many as 20 in the US alone. The serious adverse events include anaphylactic shock, grand mal convulsion, foaming at mouth, coma, paralysis, and death.”

The programme was subsequently withdrawn by the Minister citing lack of funds.

It seems rather odd (or does it?) that the vaccination is now to be re-offered to schoolchildren, but at a reduced cost of about €3m. In October 2009 Dr. Diane Harper, the leading international developer of the HPV vaccines, gave a sales pitch for Gardasil, (see article Merck Researcher admits: Gardasil Guards Against Almost Nothing.)

Far from reassuring her audience that Gardasil was safe and efficacious Dr Harper told her audience that:

*70% of HPV infections resolve themselves without treatment in one year. After two years, this rate climbs to 90%. Of the remaining 10% of HPV infections, only half coincide with the development of cervical cancer.

* the incidence of cervical cancer in the U.S. is so low that “if we get the vaccine and continue PAP screening, we will not lower the rate of cervical cancer in the US.”

* “There have been no efficacy trials in girls under 15 years,”

Dr. Harper, then in an interview with ABC News, admitted that “The rate of serious adverse events (for the vaccine) is greater than the incidence rate of cervical cancer.”

Given this frank assessment of the vaccine it is hard to understand why Minister Harney decided to introduce it.

The questions that must be asked are, why is the Minister and her Department proceeding with this initiative when the risks associated with the vaccine are so serious and are already in the public domain?
Why did the cost of the vaccine drop so significantly in such a short time? Is this reduction due to the adverse publicity based on both the record of adverse reactions to the vaccine and the negative publicity created by Dr. Harpers frank admissions?

The other questions that must be asked are does the Minister and her Department believe there is an acceptable level of risk and if so what is that level?

There is one certain method to avoid HPV – it is called abstinence.