The HPV Vaccine has already been administered to over 35 million people. At $585.00 for the three-dose recommendation, that has manufacturers of the vaccine receiving over 20 billion dollars. The vaccine is said to be effective for five years, possibly longer, but given that males and females aged 9-26 are said to benefit from this vaccine, that would mean each person would need three courses of the vaccine over their lifetime bringing in close to 41 billion dollars. So the manufacturers benefit, but do the people receiving this vaccine really benefit?
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. This virus is most commonly known as being responsible for genital warts. HPV affects both men and women and is contracted through sexual contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are over 40 strains of HPV. HPV is extremely common, however most people’s bodies naturally cure HPV after a couple of years. There is a small percentage of the population that can develop cervical caner, penile cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer and more. Both men and women may be affected by HPV.
Before looking at the HPV vaccine it is important to note sexually active women and men should be screened annually by a physician and tested for HPV and cancer. Cervical cancer develops when HPV goes unchecked and can develop as a result of causes other than HPV. Most cases of HPV that could lead to cervical cancer can be prevented by early detection. Women who cannot afford health care are at a higher risk than women who visit a gynecologist regularly. Therefore it is critical that women are able to receive affordable or free gynecological health care and are educated about potential risks so they seek out health care. Women who do receive the vaccine are still encouraged to visit a health care provider on a regular basis to be screened for cervical cancer.
What is important to note is that this vaccine has been touted as a savior for women. As usual women are guilted into the vaccine through media coverage claiming we need to protect ourselves and it would be irresponsible to allow our girls to develop cervical cancer. Again, education is the best protection, however failing that, we should start to question why men aren’t being encouraged to have this vaccine at the same rate.
There are currently two vaccines on the market – Gardasil, which is being marketed for men and women, although the CDC notes the vaccine is not routinely recommended for administration to males. This vaccine could prevent anal and penile cancers caused by HPV as well as genital warts. While genital warts are not life threatening, it is a disease transmittable to others, specifically women who may then contract cervical cancer. Men are just as responsible as women for spreading disease and should, if we decide this vaccine is worthwhile, be encouraged to have the vaccine as aggressively as women are encouraged.
The second vaccine, Cevarix, is targeted only towards women and deals with two strains of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. This vaccine does not target genital warts. Gardasil is targeted to four strains.
While these products have been tested on thousands of people, side effects have only been observed for eight years. Within those 8 years there have been short-term side effects. Long-term side effects, such as increased risk for cancers may not appear for another 10 plus years.
According to the National Cancer Institute, from the 35 million doses administered there have been 18,727 reports of “adverse effects,” resulting from use of Gardasil. 8% or 1,498 of those are considered serious. Serious effects include “hospitalization, death, permanent disability, congenital anomaly or life threatening illness.” While these have been reported post vaccine, they have not been proven to be a result of the vaccine, although it is likely. In 2006, 9,700 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,700 women died. Not all cases of cervical cancer are related to HPV. So the vaccine could not have saved all 3,700 women. Statistics do not show the percentage of deaths due to HPV related cervical cancer versus other causes of cervical cancer. We have however determined Gardasil may cause serious illness to close to 1,500 women. Not a great statistic. Add to that girls and women who have reported blood clots in the heart, lungs, and legs after receiving the vaccine, as well as cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder that results in muscle weakness and this vaccine does not appear to be such a miracle. With Cevarix there have only been 39 reports of adverse affects with 3% serious, according to the CDC. We may have saved 2,202 lives, however we don’t know the long term effects that could potentially damage 35 million people and counting.
As for the long-term effects, that is something we will have to wait and see. Before people dismiss long-term effects, lets remember DES or Diethylstilbestrol. This was a synthetic estrogen given to women from 1940-1970 to reduce the risk of miscarriages and complications with pregnancy. In 1971, 21 years after this drug was first administered to women, it was found that those who received the estrogen had a higher risk of breast cancer. But that wasn’t the shocking part. Girls born to women who had received DES while 子宮頸癌疫苗價錢 pregnant were found to have a higher risk to a rare vaginal tumor. Boys born to these women showed higher risk for testosterone deficiency and non-cancerous epididymal cysts as well as behavioral or neurological change, according to Wikipedia. The 3rd generation of children shows signs of a possible increase of infertility. The HPV vaccine is not currently recommended for pregnant women because not enough studies have been done on possible effects on the fetus. However, if a vaccine is not safe for a fetus, I would be wary about the potential effects on girls as young as 9 who are still developing.
We have no idea the long-term consequences of this vaccine. As women, and now men, wait and wonder if or what the potential future risks may be, the pharmaceutical companies, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline are filling their pockets to the tune of billions of dollars. Before rushing your sons or daughters to the doctor to receive this vaccine, consider talking to your children about sex, about condoms or abstinence, both of which will also prevent HPV related cancers without side effects.