Julie Gerberding moved to Merck Vaccines last month and CDC simultaneously decided to focus on cervical cancer. What a coincidence! The only cancer mentioned on CDC’s home page is cervical cancer, and a chart of cervical cancer incidence by ethnicity is the only statistical information on the home page.
CDC says, “The PAP test and HPV vaccine can help prevent cervical cancer.” Yet there is no data to show that adding the HPV vaccine to appropriate PAP screening will prevent any more cancers than PAP screening alone. HPV vaccinations may lead young women to omit screening, if they believe Merck’s “one less” advertising slogan for Gardasil, its HPV vaccine. Then the vaccine could increase cervical cancer rates.
CDC is quick to say that uninsured children may still be able to get HPV vaccine through the Vaccines for Children program. Government not only advertises Merck’s vaccine; it will even buy it for you!
The page fails to say anything, however, about potential adverse reactions to the vaccine, or about the remaining questions regarding efficacy and duration of effect, thought to be only about 5 years.
An excellent 2009 JAMA editorial on HPV vaccines notes,
“But the net benefit of the HPV vaccine to a woman is uncertain. Even if persistently infected with HPV, a woman most likely will not develop cancer if she is regularly screened.15 So rationally she should be willing to accept only a small risk of harmful effects from the vaccine.
When weighing evidence about risks and benefits, it is also appropriate to ask who takes the risk, and who gets the benefit. Patients and the public logically expect that only medical and scientific evidence is put on the balance. If other matters weigh in, such as profit for a company or financial or professional gains for physicians or groups of physicians, the balance is easily skewed.”
The impact of cervical cancer needs to be put into perspective. More than ten times as many women die in the US yearly from breast cancer as from cervical cancer, and they are around the same young age as cervical cancer victims. More than fifteen times as many women die yearly from lung cancer as from cervical cancer.
CDC’s list of the ten top cancers in women doesn’t even include cervical cancer! Here it is:
UPDATE: From the UK’s Daily Mail, we find that Britain has gone a step farther. The government will not only buy your child the vaccine, it will pay her $71 in a shopping voucher when she completes all 3 doses. This National Health Service program is being piloted in Birmingham.
Teenage girls are being rewarded with shopping vouchers for having the cervical cancer jab.
Girls aged 16 to 18 are being given £45 of vouchers if they complete an inoculation course against the HPV virus, the sexually transmitted infection that causes 70 per cent of cervical tumours… No parental consent is needed…
A national campaign to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 18 has been criticised over fears it may encourage promiscuity and raise pregnancy rates, and uptake has been low among girls aged 16 to 18…