Government wrong to push human papillomavirus vaccine

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

To the editor:
The hasty decision by our federal Health Minister to vaccinate young Canadian girls in Grades 6-9 against the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a monstrous mistake.

First, the vaccine isn’t necessary. According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, only a very small percentage of women infected with the virus have “high risk” strains that could lead to cervical cancer.

Otherwise, HPV generally clears on its own like the common cold, or could leave you with a few genital warts. There is no dangerous epidemic of HPV and there is no epidemic of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer kills approximately 400 women in Canada each year as compared to breast cancer, which kills approximately 5,000 women. We already have a good method of early detection and therefore management, of cervical cancer, with almost 100 per cent survival rate when found early " namely the Pap test.

The $300 million used for the Gardasil vaccination program could be better spent on ThinPrep cervical cancer screening, which is even more accurate than the Pap smear test and on increased sex education in schools, which has been proven in numerous studies to decrease risk-taking behaviour and incidence of sexually transmitted infections.

Second, we don’t even know the vaccine is effective, let alone safe. Merck, the makers of Gardasil, still cannot give us answers to such questions as: How safe is this vaccine? What are the side effects? How many girls were used in clinical trials? And because cervical cancer develops over many years, was this vaccine even tested long enough to know that it works?

Another alarming fact: since May 2007, there have been 2,000 adverse affects from this vaccine reported in the United States along with seven deaths, which are currently under investigation.

Third, the medical support for this initiative is suspect. As a nurse who has been taught to think critically and use evidence-based practice, I started to research information about the Gardasil vaccine only to be alarmed on every front.

I looked to experts at the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada for help to see why they are so enthusiastic about this vaccine and saw, to my surprise, that they were given a $1.5 million grant from Merck: did this money have an impact on their behaviour?

This vaccine and public in-school vaccination program is screaming “scam.” With all the unanswered questions and adverse side effects, why are we supporting this campaign?

I urge everyone to be critical thinkers and leaders. Do some research and support the initiatives you believe in, and speak out against the ones you don’t. Our healthcare system is in critical danger of being taken over and controlled by big pharmaceutical companies like Merck, that do research fueled by how to make money, not by how to make humans healthy.
"Celina Carter
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

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