Questions Surround HPV Vaccine Gardasil
Filed Under: Health & Science | Posted: 07/08/2008 at 2:24PM
Comments | Region: United States
Posted by Kara McDonough to FindingDulcinea
Gardasil, a vaccine approved by the FDA in 2006, is between 90 and 100 percent effective at protecting against some strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer, according to pharmaceutical company Merck, which produces the vaccine.
But Dr. Diane Harper, an expert on HPV and one of the researchers who helped develop the drug, says that a push by several states and supported by Merck to make the vaccine mandatory for young girls “went too fast without any breaks.”
Harper says there has not been enough post-marketing surveillance of Gardasil to make sure it is not dangerous for girls as young as 11 and 12, who are recommended for the vaccine.
Furthermore, critics worry that Gardasil may be targeting the wrong age group. Middle-school-aged girls who receive the vaccine will be no more than 18 when they pass its five-year proven window of effectiveness. The typical cervical cancer patient doesn’t contract the virus until more than a decade after her preteen years, and cancer does not appear, on average, until age 47, following an incubation period.
Additionally, many young women’s immune systems clear the virus within one to two years of contracting it. And when detected early, HPV can be treated and rarely leads to cancer.
Besides age concerns, recent reports have surfaced about negative side effects of the vaccine, including, in extreme cases, paralysis and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, says none of the 10 deaths reported were definitively linked to the vaccine.
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