HPV vaccine safe, effective and necessary

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

To the editor:
I want to thank those on campus for the recent town hall meeting regarding human papillomavirus and the nursing student Celina Carter, who wrote the letter to the editor on Jan. 23 entitled “Government wrong to push HPV vaccine.” All this discussion is bringing to the forefront the importance of HPV and its prevention. The Gazette letter states that the vaccine is not necessary; I find this an unfortunate and misinformed statement.

First of all, according to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. It is linked with genital warts, abnormal Pap tests, cervical and other forms of cancer. The amount of healthcare dollars that go into treating individuals with the above conditions must be astronomical, even in comparison to the $300 million being spent on the vaccination program in Ontario.

Secondly, as discussed at the town hall meeting by Dr. Warshawsky, the associate medical officer of health for Middlesex-London Heath Unit, the efficacy of the vaccine, and the rigour in which it was researched and developed, are the same as other vaccines such as polio, measles or meningitis, so I am not sure where the writer of the letter to the editor is getting her information.

If individuals are interested in more information on the research and development of this vaccine, I suggest they read the Feb. 15 Canadian Communicable Disease Report, distributed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, on the NACI findings of the safety and efficacy of the Gardasil vaccine.

Finally, I would like to comment on the statistic Ms. Carter quoted regarding the 400 women a year who die of cervical cancer in Canada and their families, who suffer with them during that time. It is not just the death rate we should evaluate when talking about HPV. I would like to caution this nursing student not overlook all the people in Canada who have to undergo painful and sometimes life-altering treatments for their health problems related to HPV.

These treatments can include frequent liquid nitrogen applications to genital warts, repeat Pap testing at six-month intervals due to abnormal cells linked with HPV, multiple visits to specialists for abnormal Paps or colposcopy tests, laser electrocautery excisional procedures, cervical cone biopsies or even a hysterectomy, which makes child bearing impossible.

The pain, anguish and anxiety patients experience during any of the above treatments is worth every penny of healthcare funding going into the HPV vaccination program. As well, think of the healthcare dollars that could be saved if the incidence of HPV is decreased and the treatments were not necessary.

I urge the population on Western’s campus to become more informed about any vaccine they receive, whether it is hepatitis, the flu vaccine or the HPV vaccine. I also hope that despite any criticism of this new HPV vaccine, all medical professionals keep their minds open to the possibility that the drug company who developed the vaccine is correct in its claims that women will be saved from dying of cervical cancer.
"Cynthia Gibney RN, MScN
Nursing Manager/Patient Services Coordinator
Student Health Services

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