HPV Vaccine panic turns out to be unfounded


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Few subjects polarise opinion like vaccination. Since Edward Jenner pioneered the concept more than 200 years ago, it has transformed public health across the globe and vies with antibiotics and anaesthesia as the most significant advance in modern medicine. But, as the recent furore over the cervical cancer vaccine has proven, it is also one of the most controversial.

A 14-year-old schoolgirl, Natalie Morton, collapsed and died within hours of receiving the Cervarix vaccine, fuelling the embers of parental concern and encouraging the conspiracy theorists who populate so many internet forums. That she now appears to have died from an underlying cancer, rather than from a reaction to the vaccine, seems to have been largely ignored. The damage has been done…

There are many sensible voices out there, but they are drowned in a sea of prejudice. On one forum, an independent virologist was trying to explain the link between the human papilloma virus (HPV — the infection that the vaccine protects against) and cervical cancer when one of her fellow posters launched into a tirade about vaccination being part of a plan to reduce the world’s population by 80 per cent. How on earth do you have a sensible discussion with such a crackpot?…

I also discovered a widely held belief that Cervarix is a cheap, second-rate vaccine that has already caused a number of deaths in the United States, where the authorities are supposedly considering withdrawing it. Actually Cervarix isn’t even available in the US. The national programme there uses Gardasil — a similar vaccine that offers additional protection against genital warts. Most doctors would have liked to have seen Gardasil used in the UK, too, but for that additional protective effect against warts rather than any improved safety…

I am all for healthy scepticism, but I have had enough of the scaremongering. If people choose not to be vaccinated then that is their right and it should be respected. But that has to be an informed choice based on facts, and vaccines should be considered in the same light as other medical interventions — it is the balance of benefits and risks that is critical…

The frustrating part of the equation is that the loudest skeptics are the self-defined libertarians fueled by their distrust of any organization larger than a garage band. What their fear and hatred of republican government has to do with medical care is beyond comprehension.

I know we went through this for everything from Jenner’s original discovery – on up to the installation of traffic lights and mandatory driving insurance. But, I grew up in the time of regular deaths or lifetime incapacity from measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough and polio. Only an ignoramus or a fool would want those days to return.

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2 comments

  1. SK Mat

    Yes. The vaccine business is controlled by greedy companies who are interested only in money making and not concerned about lives.

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