Ten reasons why HPV vaccine is 'murky' issue

gardasilThe word "cancer" triggers emotions ranging from fear to empathy to panic. But we cannot let our emotions cause us to spend money or create mandates without careful research. We need to evaluate claims of drugmakers, lobbyists and lawmakers when they seek money for cancer prevention efforts.

Here are 10 reasons why we are skeptical about efforts to mandate for school girls the HPV vaccine against the sexually transmitted cervical-cancer virus.

10. Merck and Co. (the manufacturer of the vaccine) has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

9. Sen. Connie Lawson, the General Assembly's No. 1 advocate for the vaccine, is a member of Women in Government.

8. A top official from Merck's vaccine division sits on Women in Government's business council.

7. Women in Government President Susan Crosby, a former Indiana state legislator, said the vaccine could "eliminate a cancer." Yet Gardasil, is NOT a cancer vaccine. It is a vaccine for a virus; specifically for four of the more than 100 types of HPV, two of which cause 70 percent of cervical cancer in women, and two that cause 90 percent of genital warts.

6. Merck could generate billions in sales if Gardasil - at $360 for the three-shot regimen - were made mandatory across the country. Depending on how many girls are Medicaid-eligible in each state, much of that money could come from Medicaid dollars - even if the vaccine is recommended, not mandated.

5. The top 10 leading killers of women in the U.S. are heart disease, stroke, lung cancer (more than 70,000 deaths of women per year), respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's, breast cancer, diabetes, accidents, flu/pneumonia and colon cancer. About 3,700 U.S. women die of cervical cancer each year; that is about 1/8th of the number of women who die from colon cancer, the No. 10 killer of U.S. women.

4. Because the vaccine was only studied for 3 1/2 years, the long-term effectiveness and safety of this vaccine has yet to be determined. It took years for thalidomide and Vioxx (also a Merck product) to demonstrate their most negative side effects.

3. Pap smears have dramatically reduced cervical cancer deaths in the U.S. But Gardasil does not protect against all cancers of the cervix. If the number of Pap smears go down because of women's false sense of security, the number of cervical cancer deaths could go UP!

2. Scarce health care dollars should be spent in the most effective way possible. We believe an investment of billions could be better spent in efforts to battle the top 10 killers of women. (See No. 6 and No. 5.)

1. With an issue as "murky" as this, our little girls should not be guinea pigs.

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Grace Housholder, Dave Kurtz, Matt Getts and Michael Marturello. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers' comments.


I also invite you to read some comments to the article at the link above