Monday, July 07, 2008

HPV Vaccine Update: Dangerous to Girls?

Readers of SHS will recall when the HPV vaccine first came out and with it, a great political push made by business interests and those of a certain cultural persuasion that expected (wanted?) teenage girls to be sexually active to require all girls to receive the vaccine. That effort stalled, and from my perspective, that's a good thing on several levels. One is that the vaccine may have serious side effects. From the story:

Ault explains why youth is key. Human papillomavirus is sexually transmitted, "so one of the advantages of giving it to adolescents is that they are unlikely to have been sexually active, so they will not have been exposed to the virus before getting the vaccine." Another reason to do this early, Ault points out, is that "our immune system is a lot better when we are 11 than when we are, say, at 22."

Ault also suggests that parents could use this experience to teach their children about sex and, even more important, about the realities of life, such as sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

These arguments aren't convincing to some parents, the ones that are choosing not to have their daughters vaccinated. There are several reasons for doing this, including religious beliefs. Some faith-based groups feel the vaccine is inviting their young daughters to become sexually active.

Others believe the drug is just too risky. CDC spokesman Curtis Allen says the vaccine is constantly being monitored by a joint CDC /FDA hotline. Parents, patients and physicians can call the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, to report any adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Through a Freedom of Information Act petition, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch got records from VAERS that showed three deaths in girls who'd had the vaccine in March-April 2007 and over 1,600 adverse reactions reported from June 2006 to April 2007. All said the response came after getting the HPV vaccine.

Allen cautions restraint in considering the reports. "Most of these reactions were minor," he said, and the deaths "were linked to circumstances not related to the vaccine." The CDC and the FDA are constantly monitoring the VAERS hotline and won't hesitate to act should they see any dangerous trends due to the HPV vaccine, he said.

That might not sound alarming, but as reported in US News and World Report, one father thinks that the vaccine caused his daughter's paralysis.

Don't get me wrong: The issues for me have never been the vaccine, but the attempted coercion and the increasing effort to remove the control of their children's medical care from parental control.

If parents want to vaccinate their daughters, more power to them. But the lesson here is that mandatory vaccination, when the disease is not widely communicable and the vaccine is new, should be very carefully considered.

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