Protection Against HPV

ALL diseases are nasty but they do not come any nastier than human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. It is sexually transmitted and for that reason it is underreported. The shame factor trumps public health policy. HPV is almost certainly one. And it stays that way simply because if it is not the cause of cervical cancer, it another underreported disease. Since there’s a strong correlation between HPV infection and cervical cancer, the two afflictions could be put together for prevention.

The good news is that there’s already a vaccine for two forms of HPV. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved it. Public health authorities in the US, however, still have to decide on who, when and where a person can get the vaccine. This early, faith-based organizations have made known their objection to its use.

Merck and GlaxoSmithKline or GSK have developed their own versions of the vaccine. The Merck entry, called Gardasil, has been approved by the FDA for girls and women between 9 and 26. It is 100% effective against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), so, the US government now wants to require its use among all students in grammar, middle and high school before they become sexually active, because once they catch HPV infection, there is no cure. They could repeatedly spread HPV. And HPV is the precursor of cervical cancer. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in the US recommended the vaccine for females between the ages of 12 and 26 and to girls aged 9 and older on the advice of a doctor.

The recommendation immediately ran into an ethical storm. More so, when legislators quickly rushed to propose the mandatory immunization of girls aged 9 to 25 in several States. It did not help that this sudden mandatory widespread vaccination for girls is publicly known to be actively lobbied and advocated by the vaccine’s manufacturer itself, Merck. Many believe that the mandatory vaccination is just an advertising ploy from Merck to recover its losses and to get ahead of its competitor, GlaxoSmithKline.

The noble objective, therefore, of protecting women against HPV was drowned by political warfare and accusations since the legislator proposing the mandatory vaccination is directly or indirectly affiliated with Merck. Neither does the controversial television advertisings released by Merck depicting independent and strong-willed girls making their choice to be vaccinated and another, showing mothers trying to protect their daughters from the deadly disease in the future.

Opposition argued that that abstinence and not immunization is the answer to HPV infection. They assert that young females who have protection against HPV could become promiscuous. Others argue that the mandatory vaccination dilutes parental right to choose. There also is a downside to this vaccine—it is not cheap; Merck prices it at $360 for 3 doses over 6 months. Also, the vaccine is not effective against those who are already infected. As a result, any immunization program must target females before they become sexually active or before they catch the virus.

There are civil rights advocate groups in the United States who are objecting to mandatory vaccination, in spite of the proven 100 percent efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Historically, in similar situations in the past, hundreds of thousands of those who objected to receiving polio and the other vaccines, for religious or other reasons, came down with those devastating diseases that could have been prevented. Indeed, those were most unfortunate and unnecessary morbidities and deaths, rendering modern medical progress useless.

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