Target group for new vaccine induces skepticism

As fall wanes and winter begins to settle in, local pharmacies and health centers have been bombarding the public with flu vaccine advertisements on TV, the radio, billboards, you name it.

This annual, time-tested appointment is often seen as usual and necessary to staving off pesky colds and staying healthy as the snow begins to fly. Most of us have dutifully, unquestioningly been getting our regular flu shots or chicken pox vaccines since we’ve been old enough to start going to school. A lot of these vaccines, though, are ones that have been on the market forever, or at least long enough for the drug companies to perform long-term efficacy trials.

There are other vaccines, however, that I’m not so sure are really deserving of parents’ trust when it comes to their 11- and 12-year old daughters.

Merck & Co.’s Gardasil vaccine, which was approved by the FDA in 2006, is intended to prevent HPV (human papilloma virus), a sexually transmitted disease that is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer in women. While this vaccine sounds like an important breakthrough in women’s health, there are some issues that should give mothers and fathers pause when considering vaccinating their daughters.

If Merck had it their way, schools across the country would pass legislation that would require female students to be vaccinated in order to still attend. Worse, this legislation would be directed at girls as young as 11 and 12, as this is the target age group for the vaccine.

Why does this pharmaceutical company deem it fitting to market to preteen girls? Let’s call Gardasil what it is – an STD vaccine. Do girls this young really need to be getting vaccinated before they’re even thinking of becoming sexually active? The thing that makes this most unfathomable is that the vaccine only provides protection for about five years – it doesn’t even last through the years of a woman’s life when she will need it the most. She’ll probably need to get vaccinated again when she’s 17 or 18.

Additionally, there are many different strains of HPV, and not all of them cause cervical cancer.  Gardasil doesn’t protect against all of them, but more importantly, Merck has said that it doesn’t even protect against all of the ones that lead to cancer.

Even considering these imperfections, who cares? It’s just another shot; we’ve all been there, done that. We don’t think about it, we get the shot and go on our way as if the biggest thing to worry about is the tenderness around the injection site that only lasts for maybe the rest of the day.

But what if that isn’t the biggest thing girls have to worry about with Gardasil? This is a vaccine that has only been on the market since 2006. There’s no way that they’ve been able to test for long-term effects, and there have already been numerous extremely disturbing cases of girls who have received the vaccination and have suffered extreme and debilitating neurological and autoimmune conditions.

A lot of times I think we forget that we have the ability to do our research before being vaccinated with a new drug or even taking unfamiliar prescription medications. I don’t mean to sound like a preacher of natural medicine who refuses to take anything or receive any form of professional treatment – I do enjoy a good aspirin from time to time.

But people still need to know that it’s OK to ask questions and do their research when putting a foreign substance into their bodies, or consenting to do the same for loved ones.

 

CHRISTINE PEFFER

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