Guard Your Girls From Gardasil: What every woman and parent should know before considering the HPV vaccine.

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Recently, the media has been saturated with ads promoting
Gardasil, the Human Papillomavirus vaccine created
by Merck. The overwhelming tone of this campaign is
that cervical cancer is a growing epidemic and that the
best preventative measure is to inoculate young girls and
women. However, there are still many unanswered questions
surrounding Gardasil and growing evidence showing
that there is more behind this media blitz than a general
public policy to improve women’s health.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common
sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV
includes over 120 different strains, and approximately 30-
40 of those are transmitted sexually. Out of these 30-40,
only a few types can cause mild cellular changes in cervical
cells or genital warts. In rare cases, if left unchecked for
many years, these abnormal cellular changes (dysplasia)
could lead to cervical cancer. According to the Center for
Disease Control and Prevention, about 6.2 million Americans
become infected yearly with HPV and over half of all
sexually active men and women (20 million) will become
infected in their lifetime. In the United States, there are
approximately 9,710 new cases each year of cervical cancer,
and about 3,700 deaths. On a worldwide scale,
400,000 women get cervical cancer and of that 233,000
die each year due to cervical cancer that could have been
caught early through regular Pap smear screening.
It is also important to note that 70% of people infected
with HPV will clear the virus on their own down to an
undetectable viral load level in 8-24 months following
infection. Most won’t show any symptoms of ever having
the virus. Regular Pap smear testing continues to be the
one of most effective methods in cervical cancer prevention.
Other factors for preventing cervical cancer include
maintaining a healthy immune system, not smoking, and
practicing safe sexual habits.
If most HPV is cleared, and cervical cancer is so rare,
then what good is Gardasil?
Gardasil was introduced last year and was the fastest
FDA-approved vaccine ever. It is a non-infectious genetically
engineered vaccine created from virus-like particles of
major HPV proteins 6,11,16, and 18. HPV 6 and 11 are low
risk strains linked to 90% of genital warts, while 16 and 18
are high risk strains responsible for 50-70% of the cervical
cancers in the world. Although Gardasil has been highly
effective in Merck’s clinical trials, it is not a replacement for
regular Pap screening, nor is it a cure for cancer. Women
already infected with these strains will not benefit from taking
the drug. Gardasil does not prevent infection from the
other HPV types not contained in the vaccine. The vaccine
is administered in three shots and costs $120 per shot.
Some of these figures were reiterated on Monday, Feb.
25, during a HPV presentation on the University of Illinois
campus. Dr. Suzanne Trupin of Champaign’s Women’s
Health Practice provided statistics and stated that cervical
cancer is rare in the United States and not a problem
worldwide. Only 10% of those with HPV will develop a
serious infection. She also stated that cervical cancer is primarily
diagnosed in women during their late 30s and 40s
and that half of the women who develop cancer have never
had a regular Pap smear. Regular Pap smears are still the
primary cancer screening method, however she foresaw
that in the next 5-10 years the HPV test will become an
increasingly more prevalent screening method. Despite the
low incidents of cancer in women, the doctor still highly
praised Gardasil, citing a singular case of a young woman
who developed cervical cancer in her twenties. She also
confirmed that the vaccine Gardasil does contain aluminum,
a chemical that in some reports has been linked to
aluminum plaque buildup in people with Alzheimers.
There are still many things that we don’t know about this
vaccine. First, there has not been enough research done
demonstrating the long term effects this drug will have on
women and girls. Lobbyists are pushing for this drug to be
used on pre-adolescent girls as young at 9 years old, and
yet, at this time no testing has been done outside the age
range 16 to 26 years. Based upon the trial results, the effectiveness
of the drug’s reaction was inferred to the younger
age group. Secondly, the length of the vaccine’s immunity
in the long term is still unknown. At best, immunity has
been slated for 5 years. Also, women with compromised
immune systems may have complications and develop
adverse auto-immune responses. Gardasil should not be
used by pregnant women. Merck has not tested to see if the
vaccine’s antigens are passed on through breast milk. The
long term effect on women’s fertility has not been studied.
Merck has not established Gardasil’s potential toxicity and
carcinogenicity. In addition, with the exception of the
hepatitis B vaccine, Gardasil’s administration with other
vaccines has yet to be studied. While side effects normally
associated with vaccination are mentioned in their product
information, Merck does not clearly state what the adverse
side effects are. However, the national vaccine surveillance
program, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System
(VAERS), contains numerous patient reports of loss of consciousness,
severe headaches, temporary vision loss, hives,
erythema, vasculitis, abdominal pain, arthritis, dizziness
and seizures. In some of these instances, adverse reactions
occurred in women taking birth control.
Despite the questions surrounding this drug, many states
are being pushed to introduce legislation and resolutions
making vaccination a school requirement for young girls. A
closer look reveals that Merck has been lobbying and funding
efforts to pass state laws across the country. Merck is
channeling money through Women in Government, a nonprofit
advocacy group comprised of women state legislators
from around the country. Women in Government has been
in the forefront for pushing new legislative changes to
states laws and also has several ties to Texas Governor Rick
Perry. In February, Governor Perry issued an executive
order mandating that all Texas girls get the vaccine. In the
past, Perry received several thousands of dollars in campaign
contributions from Merck. His former chief of staff,
Mike Toomey, is now one of Merck’s three lobbyists.
Women in Government plans to partner with women’s
clubs, sororities, advocacy groups, faith based organizations
and membership associations to influence women to take
the vaccine. They are going to disseminate pro-vaccination
information in places where women, particularly target
poor women and women of color, gather, e.g. hair and nail
salons, schools, on public transportation and particularly
target women of color and the poor. A press release on the
group’s website states, “minority and underserved women
are being left behind in states” prevention efforts” and that
“we can no longer accept substandard prevention and treatment
for the underserved women of our country.”
Digene, the makers of the HPV Test and another
Women in Government sponsor, hopes to piggyback off of
Merck’s success. Like Merck, it has also launched media
campaigns promoting its HPV Test in places such as Texas,
Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities with high concentrations
of women of color, immigrants, and poor. Digene
wants to replace regular Pap smear screening with its more
expensive DNA HPV test. The company projects to make
millions of dollars this year and calls cervical cancer its
largest untapped “overall cancer-screening market.“
The attempt by these groups to usurp parental control has
backfired. After numerous complaints and an overwhelming
backlash against this mandate, Merck has temporarily
backed off pushing the vaccine. Governor Perry, however,
still stands by his executive order, even though it is not an
actual law and not legally binding. All parents still have
the legal right to conscientiously object to vaccinations on
the basis of religious and philosophical grounds. If politicians
in league with Women in Government, Merck and
others have their way, such provisions around exemptions
will be tightened and monitored.
In Illinois, 103rd District Representative Naomi Jakobsson
recently introduced legislation calling for the vaccination
of all sixth grade girls. House Bill 115 would amend
the current School Code and call for a statewide comprehensive
Cervical Cancer Prevention Plan for the general
public. Under this law, parents would have to register their
child’s HPV vaccination status with the state.
There needs to be more conclusive studies done before it
can be determined whether Gardasil is more beneficial than
it is harmful. One thing is for sure, this highly experimental
investigational vaccine was prematurely rushed out into the
market at the behest of those who stand to make the most
profit from forced inoculations. The perceived danger of the
cervical cancer “epidemic” has been inflated by advocacy
groups, lobbyists, and politicians in a coordinated front
launched, initiated and funded by Merck. Merck has intentionally
manufactured a false need through direct-to-consumer
advertising and is influencing the public discourse on
this issue. Whatever legislation passes, it is important that
all women and parents become informed on this issue, get
adequate balanced information on HPV and cervical cancer,
and exercise their right to choose what chemicals they put
into their own and their children’s bodies.

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