Thursday, September 4, 2008

"one less [efficacy] statistic"

I came across an article in the New York Times, which reviews the rush to mandate Gardasil, the vaccine against HPV, and the the fact that the longevity of immunity provided by this costly vaccine has yet to be proven.

I had read about the strange side effects of the vaccine, which range from fainting, to paralysis, to death, in obscure blogs for over a year, but this is the first mainstream news article I have seen that gives voice to skeptics of Gardasil.

The article questions the reason for the expedited application process and eventual approval of the vaccine by the CDC, which took only six months from start to finish. According to the NY Times, this process takes about three years for other vaccines. Let's just say there are some overt conflicts of interest.

Virginia is the only state to mandate the vaccine as of yet, but many more have legislation in the works. However, some relevant facts should accompany the above statment, "Merck has a growing economic interest in Virginia. In December 2006, Merck announced it would invest $57 million to expand its Elkton, Va., plant to make Gardasil, helped by a $700,000 grant from a state economic development agency that is part of the executive branch. Two months later, Gov. Tim Kaine, who has been mentioned as a possible Democratic vice presidential candidate, signed legislation requiring Gardasil for schoolgirls. Four months after that, Merck pledged to invest $193 million more in the plant to make drugs and vaccines, helped by a state grant of $1.5 million."

Why should this vaccine be mandated at all? HPV is not infectious, like the flu or other deadly disease for which the public is vaccinated against. If someone who has it sneezes on you, you won't catch it. So, why should every prepubescent girl be required to get the vaccine in order to attend school?

Doctors were also paid $4,500 by Merck, to give an hour long presentation about the vaccine and its benefits, which health-wise are uncertain and economically non-existent. You see, because the vaccines are so expensive and cervical cancer is already often caught and treated successfully, because of yearly pap smears given to most women, the "benefits" just aren't worth the cost, according to some health economists.

Meanwhile, our government will spend millions to get girls vaccinated this year, thus diverting much needed funds away from other necessary, proven, preventive care.


Steve Hatchett said...

The point is that it should be optional right? Or maybe, why isn't there a vaccination for boys? Because HPV does sound pretty unpleasant. Once you have it, you have it. It's not going away.

Steve Hatchett said...

Or maybe your point concerns the money or the drugs ineffectiveness? Or the side effects? So damn complicated.

chrishna said...

the long term efficacy of the drug has yet to be proven. in some cases antibodies have ceased to be produced after just three years.

also, the cost/benefit ratio isn't pragmatic. in western countries, women have yearly pap smears to catch cervical cancer. Generally speaking, early detection and treatment can stop the disease. so, the number of deaths from cervical caner is nowhere near that of breast caner, brain cancer, or other ailments, such as diabetes. by diverting public funds from other proven preventive care for deadlier diseases.

the vaccine, if proven effective and made affordable, could transform health for women in developing countires where they don't have access to yearly pap smears.

though united states does appear to have a slightly higher percentage of cervical cancer. i think that is because our broken health care system.

see link below.