By Meg Jalsevac

  OTTAWA, March 21, 2007 ( – Canada’s federal government 2007-2008 budget, announced yesterday by the Harper Conservatives, includes $300 million to be distributed to the individual provinces to fund the new HPV vaccination – a vaccination aimed at preventing the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer in women.

  The HPV vaccination, known as Gardasil, has been produced by the drug conglomerate Merck.  Merck has recommended the vaccine for all females between the ages of 9 and 26 and initially launched the product with a major lobbying effort to have it legally mandated for all girls attending 6th grade.  Despite media efforts to portray the vaccination as 100% backed by the entire medical community, Merck has since had to cease its massive lobbying campaign. There has substantial resistance from many different parties including concerned parents and prominent figures and groups in the medical community.

  Virginia and Texas are the first two US states to have implemented the mandatory vaccination for young girls while several other states are considering similar legislation.  Proposals in some states such as Maryland, Michigan and Mississippi have been voted down or abandoned due to lack of support.

  While the Canadian government has not stipulated that the money be used to fund a nation-wide mandatory vaccination, some critics are leery that the Canadian provinces may follow the action of those US states that have implemented the Merck program.

  Concern seems especially appropriate given the recommendation of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in the Canadian Communicable Disease Report. The report says “GardasilTM is recommended for females between 9 and 13 years of age, as this is before the onset of sexual intercourse for most females in Canada, and the efficacy would be greatest. While efficacy of the vaccine in this age group has not been demonstrated, the immunogenicity bridging data implies that efficacy would be high.”

  As stated in the recommendation, the effectiveness of the vaccine in the target age group of young girls has not been scientifically established.  Medical personnel have merely used results in adult test scenarios to predict positive results in a younger demographic.

  While supporting the effort to combat cancer, critics of Garbasil have a laundry list of concerns about the vaccine and the effort to have it required for 6th grade attendance – not the least of which is that Garbasil is a vaccination for a sexually transmitted disease associated with promiscuity and the intended age group for the mandatory vaccination is pre-teen girls.

  Concerned Women for America (CWA) has voiced many of its concerns regarding the vaccination and the push to have it mandated for school age girls.  Among other issues, they argue mandating such a vaccine for young girls is the state usurping the rights of parents to make such decisions for their children.   

  CWA also states such a vaccination could give a false sense of security to girls in making responsible and moral decisions regarding their sexual integrity and personal health.  “There is concern that a vaccine involving STDs may give those receiving the immunization a false sense of protection against such diseases, particularly if they are not adequately informed about the vaccine’s limitations. It is important, but unfortunately not required, that recipients receive a strong abstinence message so that they understand that the only real protection from the broad range of STDs comes from refraining from sexual activity prior to marriage.”

  It has also been argued that mandating the HPV vaccination could discourage women from receiving regular PAP tests which, unlike the vaccination which only protects against 4 types of the human papilloma virus, test for a much broader range of problematic cervical conditions.  According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, since the introduction of the PAP tests approximately 50 years ago, cervical cancer death rates have plummeted by 50 percent – to as few as 390 deaths nationally per year.  Even with the introduction of the vaccination, regular PAP testing would still be necessary.

  Critics of Merck, including the National Vaccination Information Center, have accused the giant drug and the FDA of “fast-tracking” the vaccination without being totally upfront about its possible side-effects, especially in young girls.  NVIC president, Barbara Loe Fisher said, “Nobody at Merck, the CDC or FDA know if the injection of Gardasil into all pre-teen girls—especially simultaneously with hepatitis B vaccine—will make some of them more likely to develop arthritis or other inflammatory autoimmune and brain disorders as teenagers and adults.” 

  Although the American College of Pediatricians has approved the vaccine it has also expressed concern about the effort to make it mandatory. 

  A January 22, 2007 ACP statement said: “The American College of Pediatricians is opposed to any legislation which would require HPV vaccination for school attendance. Excluding children from school for refusal to be vaccinated for a disease spread only by penetrating vaginal intercourse is a serious, precedent-setting action that trespasses on the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children as well as on the rights of the children to attend school. In addition, this vaccine prevents a disease which is exclusively sexually transmitted; mandating it as early as 9 years of age places the medical provider in an ethical dilemma. First, the administration of the vaccine requires explanation to both the parent and the child. Parents may have chosen not to introduce the subject of sexual activity to their nine year olds due to their physical and emotional immaturity. Also, most 9-12 year old children are not sexually active; many have not entered puberty. Forcing a parent to forsake his/her better judgment and discuss this information with the child would be inappropriate and unnecessarily intrusive.”

  See the Feb. 2007 Canadian Communicable Disease Report

  Read Previous Coverage:

  New Mexico Close to Mandating HPV Vaccine for 6th Grade Girls Despite Lingering Questions about Safety

  Drug Conglomerate funds campaign to impose Mandatory HPV Vaccine on Young Girls

  Merck Drug Company Drops Campaign for Mandatory HPV Vaccine


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