Friday, March 16, 2007

Top researcher paid by Merrick Agrees; HPV Vaccine is Bullshit

Okay, she actually says, "untested" but she means bullshit.

A researcher who worked on a vaccine for the human papillomavirus is warning that it hasn't been tested on young girls, is "silly" for states to mandate the vaccination, and in a worst-case scenario could even increase cervical cancer rates.

In a report published by the Indiana-based Daily News, researcher Diane M. Harper said giving such a vaccine to 11-year-olds "is a great big public health experiment."

Further, she said, requiring vaccinations now "is simply to Merck's benefit."

Harper is a professor and director at the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at Dartmouth, and told the publication that there "is not enough evidence gathered on side effects to know that safety is not an issue."

Harper, who has spent much of the last 20 years studying dozens of strains of HPV, said all of her trials have been with subjects ages 15 to 25, and personally she believes the new vaccine could offer help to women ages 18 and up.

The new vaccine, Gardasil, made by Merck and Co., has been an issue recently because of Merck's aggressive lobbying at the state level to have lawmakers require that all schoolgirls at about age 11 or 12 be vaccinated with its product – at a cost estimated at about $360-$400 per child.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry in February issued an executive order requiring those vaccinations, but the state House of Representatives in Texas has approved by a 6-1 margin a plan to rescind that.

The issue that has rippled across the country as nearly three dozen state legislatures have considered the situation has not been the validity of the vaccine or the goal of reducing cervical cancer, but requiring schoolgirls to be vaccinated against a disease that is transmitted by sexual contact.

Harper said on women 18 and older, a test should be done to test for the presence of HPV, and if it's negative, the series of three shots could be helpful. But if the test is positive?

"Then we don't know squat, because medically we don't know how to respond to that," Harper said.

Her work has been funded through Dartmouth in part by Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, but technically she's a university employee, not a researcher for the drug companies.

Merck's vaccine was approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended for females ages 9-26. But a doctor at the Centers for Disease Control's advisory committee on immunizations has reported that while the vaccine may be helpful, it should not be mandatory.

Merck has lobbied for its product by contributing financially to Women in Government, an organization for women state lawmakers, and at least partly because of that effort, almost three dozen state legislatures have been given proposals regarding Gardasil.

"This vaccine should not be mandated for 11-year-old girls," Harper said. "It's not been tested in little girls for efficacy. At 11, these girls don't get cervical cancer – they won't know for 25 years if they will get cervical cancer."

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