The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now including Gardasil® on its list of recommended vaccines for boys as well as girls, claiming the vaccine can effectively prevent the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which in rare cases can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. It’s a significant win for manufacturer Merck, which had positioned the vaccine to be its next big moneymaker after it had to pull its blockbuster drug Vioxx from the market in 2004 over safety concerns.
Although the AAP has maintained that Gardasil® is appropriate for boys, until now the shot has never been included on the group’s official schedule of recommended vaccines.
According to a report by National Public Radio (NPR), “the vaccine is most potent if given to before the onset of sexual activity. Boys and girls should be vaccinated when they’re 11 or 12, the doctors say. Older boys and young men, ages 13-21, should get the vaccine, if they weren’t immunized earlier.”
The main drawback mentioned in most reports is the cost of the vaccine, which runs about $360-$400 for a three-shot regimen administered over a 6-month period. Merck markets Gardasil® as a three-shot vaccine, although the efficacy it officially reports was based on four shots, not three. No clinical trials have been conducted, nor does any proof exist, that Gardasil® is effective in protecting against cancer in the long term.
Diane Harper, a lead developer of Merck’s Gardasil® and GlaxoSmithKline’s Ceravix® human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and now one of the most vocal and credible critics of HPV vaccines, says that regular pap screenings are the most effective way to prevent HPV from turning into cervical cancer because effective treatment options exist for people with HPV. She and other medical researchers warn that the risks of Gardasil may far outweigh any benefits.
For instance, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that, “At present there are no significant data showing that either Gardasil (Merck) or Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline) can prevent any type of cervical cancer since the testing period employed was too short to evaluate long-term benefits of HPV vaccination.”
Not only does Gardasil provide patients with little to no benefit, credible independent studies have found it poses a small but real risk of death, convulsions, paraesthesia, paralysis, Guillain–Barre syndrome, transverse myelitis, facial palsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, anaphylaxis, autoimmune disorders, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms, and cervical cancers.
In the U.S., almost all cases of HPV resolve on their own without medical intervention. Of the cases that go undetected and/or untreated, very few progress to malignancy. Detection and treatment of HPV is a far safer and more effective approach to dealing with the virus than risky and expensive shots with an unproven safety record and dubious benefits.
Still, when big pharma has infiltrated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its lobby continues to exert a huge influence on the decisions of the medical community and health care insurance providers alike, dangerous drugs and vaccines like Gardasil® will be unleashed on the public with little reprisal.