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Monday, August 20, 2007

Public health boss blasts Maclean's for HPV 'guinea pig' hysteria

"Our girls are not guinea pigs" declares the front page of this week's issue of Maclean's magazine, citing safety concerns about Gardasil, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

The morning after Emily Cunningham got a shot of Gardasil, the new vaccine that protects against four strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts, she woke up with a headache, and neck and back pain. By 9 p.m. that evening in April, she had a fever so high "you could feel the heat rising from her a foot away," according to her mother, Laurie. She was delirious during the night, and the following day couldn't walk without assistance. Bedridden for nearly a week, the 18-year-old from Wyoming missed school, and took Tylenol every four hours. "If Emily had been the only one to get sick we would have said she must have had something else [like the flu]," explained Laurie, "but we know of three other students to have reactions, that is why we are concerned."

Emily's story is only one of 1,637 complaints involving Gardasil, filed as of May to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national surveillance database sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.
The magazine's accusations outraged Dr David Butler-Jones, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and head of the Public Health Agency of Canada. He wrote to the magazine's editors last Friday to express his concerns:
Having a healthy debate is essential; however, Dr. Butler-Jones believes that the way Maclean's has approached the issue of the HPV vaccine is inappropriate and one-sided. The suggestion that as public health officials we would support a vaccine that would put the health, or worse, the lives, of girls and women at risk, is irresponsible. The health and safety of Canadians is of paramount importance to me and to public health officials across the country.

The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health concurred with Dr Butler-Jones. Dr Perry Kendall, chief medical officer of BC (where the vaccine looks set to be administered soon) told the Canadian Press that the article was "alarmist."

In the current issue of NRM, Owen Dyer questions why the vaccine programs have been implemented so hurriedly. (HPV vaccine programs have already been put in place in Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, Nova Scotia and Ontario.) In addition to speaking to epidemiologist Dr Abby Lippman about the safety and efficacy questions raised by her recent CMAJ commentary (PDF), Mr Dyer raises questions about potential conflicts of interest in Merck dealings with staffers in the offices of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario health minister George Smitherman. Also, it turns out the SOGC's research that supports the vaccination programs was funded by Merck -- to the tune of $1.5 million.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't know how telling the truth can be alarmist, and in the absence of any long term studies establishing either it's safety or efficacy how can the article be charged with being one sided?

    What we know is this, some people think, but do not know that the Vaccine may reduce the risk of cervical cancer. The vaccine might prevent more sickness and death than it may cause, but there is absolutely no long term data that supports this theory. There are strong indications that some who have taken the vaccine may have been made very very sick by it, again it is not known if this is true nor are there any numbers to quantify possible risks and possible dangers. Merk has spent Billions of dollars presenting one side of the theory, one magazine has written one article that presents the opposing view and they are considered reckless. Does this seem to be a reasonable charge?

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