Tue, May

Mexico Embraces Controversial HPV Vaccine, US Less Enthusiastic


CERDAFIED - Pharmaceutical companies are laughing all the way to the bank, as Mexico follows Greece’s 2007 lead, making HPV vaccinations mandatory for girls ages 11 and 12. All fifth-grade girls will receive the first dose of a 3 dose series, getting their final dose in ninth grade.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said, “This cancer, unlike others, is preventable. It is a great opportunity that human beings have to conquer one of the worst diseases . . . through a simple vaccine.”

“I tell you with certainty and confidence that it is convenient, healthy and very important for every girl to receive this human papillomavirus  vaccine,” said Calderon, who leaves office in December.

According to Patricia Volkow Fernandez, an infectious disease and cancer specialist at Mexico’s National Cancer Institute, more than 100,000 women have died of cervical cancer in the past quarter-century. She attributes those deaths to cultural and social barriers that make rural women unlikely to accept pelvic exams that detect cervical cancer in its early stages.

HPV is the world’s most common sexually transmitted infection and causes cervical cancer.  There are more than 100 subtypes of human papillomavirus, with subtypes 16 and 18 causing 70 percent of the cervical cancer.  Most strains of HPV do not produce any symptoms and disappear on their own.

Mexico has a state-owned laboratory which makes the vaccines. Biologics and Reagents Laboratories of Mexico (Birmex) was ordered to come up with its own HPV vaccine. It is quite troubling that a long term study on the vaccine has not been under way for their version of the vaccine.

The United States has widespread resistance to HPV vaccinations. Efforts to compel the vaccine’s use have been defeated in 20 states and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas failed to win the GOP presidential nomination last year, in part, due to his an executive order in 2007 requiring 12-year-old girls to be vaccinated. Fortunately the state’s legislature succumbed to public pressure and overturned it.

Some state legislatures have granted the Health Department and other regulatory bodies the power to require vaccines, but they still need the legislature to provide funding.

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians all deem the vaccine safe, like all vaccinations, there are risks and adverse reactions. To give the vaccine to a healthy female child who is not sexually active is counter intuitive to parents. Some people support the availability of the vaccine, but are adamantly opposed to a school mandate, citing concerns about the drug's cost, safety, age appropriateness, and parents' rights to refuse.

Cervical cancer is usually treatable, with early detection. The Papanicolaou (Pap) test has been a great screening tool and in the United States a relatively low number women die of cervical cancer (approximately 3700) yearly compared to other countries.

The CDC has made the HPV vaccine  available through the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program in all 50 states. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Washington DC. VFC provides vaccines for children ages nine to 18 who are covered by Medicaid, Alaskan-Native or Native American children, and some underinsured or uninsured children.

•    On February 2, 2007, Texas became the first state to enact a mandate-by executive order from the governor-that all females entering the sixth grade receive the vaccine, with some exceptions.  Legislators in Texas passed H.B. 1098 to override the executive order and the governor withheld his veto.

•    In 2006, the New Hampshire Health Department began providing the vaccine at no cost to girls under age 18. By May of 2007, they distributed over 14,000 doses in the state.

•    South Dakota's distributed over 20,000 doses of the vaccine as of May 2007 by combining $7.5 million in federal vaccine funds and $1.7 million from the state's general fund.

•    The Washington legislature approved spending $10 million to voluntarily vaccinate 94,000 girls over the next two years.

•    The Virginia legislature passed a school vaccine requirement in 2007 and considered a bill that would delay that requirement but it was passed by indefinitely by the Senate Committee.

•    24 states and D.C. introduced legislation to specifically mandate the HPV vaccine for school (California and Maryland withdrew their bills).

•    Since 2006, legislators in at least 41 states and D.C. have introduced legislation to require the vaccine, fund or educate the public about the HPV Vaccine

In a 2005 study called, “Factors That Are Associated With Parental Acceptance of Human Papillomavirus Vaccines: A Randomized Intervention Study of Written Information About HPV” in the Pediatrics Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, by Amanda F. Dempsey, Gregory D. Zimet, Robert L. Davis and Laura Koutsky, the study evaluated whether educating parents about the risks of HPV would increase acceptance of the HPV vaccines.

It further determined if different age levels for receiving the vaccine increased acceptance of the vaccine. The cross-section survey was given to 1600 parents of 8-12 year old children, 800 took the survey after reviewing a HPV information sheet and 800 took the survey without the information sheet.  

While those with education sheet scored higher on the knowledge and risks of HPV, it did not change their acceptance of the vaccine. They scored the same level of resistance as the control group. The most important factor for increasing the acceptance of the HPV vaccine was by increasing the age level of the female receiving it.

Between June 8, 2006 and August 2007, when the vaccine received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eleven deaths occurred related to Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil. The US Government's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) lists 3,779 adverse effects, 52 of the cases were deemed "life threatening" and 119 required hospitalization.

Serious side effects that have been reported include paralysis, Bells Palsy, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and seizures associated with Gardasil. Statistical evaluation comparing life loss due to cervical cancer per year and life loss due to HPV vaccines per year, (as mandated) may prove once and for all, that the benefit of mandated HPV vaccines will go to the mortician and the pharmaceutical company.

(Lisa Cerda is a contributor to CityWatch, a community activist, Chair of Tarzana Residents Against Poorly Planned Development, and former Tarzana Neighborhood Council board member.) –cw

Vol 10 Issue 83
Pub: Oct 16, 2012


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