Gill Stannard

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Adverse reactions to HPV shot

The recent hospitalisation of 4 young women following the administration of Gardasil, after at least 20 fainted in one school alone, is cause for concern. The authorities (and makers of the vaccine) have been quick to claim that it was just an hysterical reaction, not uncommon in groups of teenage girls.

The official response, with no pause to reconsider the continuation of the program concerns me on both health and political grounds. Though this is the usual reaction to any reports about negative effects of immunisation.

The reality is these young women are guinea pigs and when the test animals keel over the subjects themselves, not the substance that has been administered, is treated with suspicion. While fainting at the sight of needles is not a rare event, reports of paralysis for 6 hours is and should be taken seriously.

We currently have a public health policy based on the holy grail of ‘herd immunity’ with the argument that injury (or death) to an individual is outweighed by the common good. It is also highly influenced by lobbying from drug manufacturers. Merck expects to make at least US$1 billion a year on the sales of Gardasil alone, in the USA.

Even if one young woman is hospitalised overnight with temporary paralysis – I think there are grounds for the program to be halted until the vaccine receives more testing. It should be noted that at the school in question, the girls continued to be immunised despite their peers "dropping like flies". A criticism of a drug trial in the UK last year, that saw 6 men administered a drug causing life threatening side effects - was that the substance was continued to be administered to other subjects despite adverse reactions occurring minutes earlier.

In the meantime – cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease with a prevention strategy that is simpler and more effective than immunisation – teaching girls and boys to use condoms.

Update: 24/5/07

It appears the incident above, may not be an isolated event as implied. In the USA Judicial Watch reports on three known deaths in reaction to Gardasil, the youngest being just 12 years old. Equally alarming, as this is the first year the vaccine has been on the market, in the USA alone there have been 1,637 cases of adverse reactions accepted by the FDA (up to May 11 2007). Serious side effects reported include – spontaneous abortion, foetal abnormalities, paralysis, Bells Palsy, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and seizures.

This seems to contradict the assurances given by Prof. Ian Frazer (the co-creator of the vaccine) that mass fainting post injection was nothing to do with the shot and Health Minister Tony Abbott confidence that “Gardasil was safe” [The Australian]

A press release from the Australian Vaccination Network this week, alleges “in the original study of 21,000 vaccinees, there were 102 serious reactions reported with 17 deaths”.

This raises a myriad of issues including – government funding of the Gardasil immunisation campaign in Australia, safety of the vaccine and most importantly – is the full story about known side effects being suppressed? In the meantime, the Health Department has not halted the immunisation program.

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