The HPV Vaccine
Human papillomaviruses (HPV) cause the small, hard, benign external tumors known as warts. Of the approximately 100 known varieties of HPV, 40 or so are transmitted sexually. In fact, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. today.
HPV can infect the moist areas around the genital track where it causes genital warts. HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, have also been implicated in the development of cancers involving the cervix, the vulva, the vagina, the penis and the anus. HPV 16 and HPV 18 are thought to be responsible for about 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. Approximately 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and of that number, 4,000 die.
In June 2006, a vaccine called Gardasil was introduced into the American market. Gardasil protects against HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18 infections. Though Gardasil was originally targeted at females, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends vaccination for all males and females alike between the ages of 11 and 12. This recommendation has given rise to some controversy.
The Presumption of Sexual Activity
By recommending that children be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted infection, is the CDC tacitly condoning sexual activity? Is it appropriate for any government agency to mandate sexual protection? Many parents and politicians think it is not.
Although a 2014 study published in the medical journal, “Pediatrics” showed no link between HPV vaccinations and subsequent sexual promiscuity, many parents continue to be concerned that vaccination may encourage their children to participate in casual sex.
Increased Risk of HPV Infection
There is also evidence that women who’ve been vaccinated with Gardasil have a higher risk of being infected with other HPV strains than women who have not been vaccinated. These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2015.
Gardasil May Be Linked to Neurodegenerative Disorders
A number of girls and young women have developed chronic health conditions following Gardasil inoculation. By mid-March 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received more than 35,000 adverse event reports implicating the HPV vaccine. Two hundred of these adverse event reports concerned deaths. Adverse event reports are no substitute for controlled data, of course; while they may suggest a correlation, they do not prove causality. Still, it may be noteworthy in this context that girls being vaccinated with Gardasil suffer anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine that are 5 to 20 times higher than those found in any other school-based vaccination program.
The most serious health condition that may be linked to Gardasil vaccinations is an autonomic nervous system disorder called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Other health problems that may be associated with use of the vaccine include thrombosis, acute respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and sudden death due to unknown causes.
As of March 2013, 49 individuals have received settlements totaling nearly six million dollars from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program for injuries related to the HPV vaccine.
Gardasil May Not Be Effective
Gardasil was expedited for approval by the FDA in the U.S. because cervical cancer is a life-threatening condition. In 2012, however, the University of British Columbia performed a systematic review of the clinical trials that were used to fast track Gardasil and found that both the design of the trials and the interpretation of the subsequent data were flawed. The researchers concluded that the most effective means of preventing cervical cancer was still the cervical screening test known as the pap smear.
Although most public health officials support Gardasil as a safe, effective means of preventing deaths from cervical cancer and other cancers of the genital tract, controversy continues to surround the use of HPV vaccines, and compliance rates continue to be low. In 2010, only 10 percent of all girls in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 17 completed the series of three injections. By 2013, however, that figure rose to 37.6 percent. Still, the controversies surrounding the use of Gardasil keep compliance inconsistent.
Learn more about the HPV Vaccine.
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