HPV Immunisation Programme – Guinea Pigs or Sheep

Guinea Pigs or Sheep
The Government’s Ministry of Health sees all our daughters as either guinea pigs on which to perform a massive, nation-wide experiment or as sheep who need to be sloshed through the dip or hit with the ol’ drench gun whether they need it or not…just in case.

It’s all in a good cause, of course. They want all parents to make an informed consent about subjecting their daughters (aged 12 to 18) to a series of three injections over a six-month period of Gardasil® vaccine to hopefully reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is not nice. It usually leads to death, but it may only mean sterility and/or disfigurement if caught in time. It is caused by some types, not all types, of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

So the schools are going to give these jabs to the girls for free, older girls starting this month, and they’ll target the 12-year-olds starting in 2009. The drug is licensed for girls aged as young as 9 and as old as 26, but if you’re not in year 8 or have already left school, too bad…you’ll have to pay for it yourself at $450 for the course of three.1

How does one get this HPV anyway? Sexual intercourse.

The comprehensive condom education in schools in not enough. That is because condoms provide little protection against HPV, and HPV infection is the most common STD. So the friendly makers of Gardasil® have struck a deal with the Ministry of Health, to sell them…I mean, to provide millions of doses of this potentially life-saving drug. Granted, it only protects against the two HPV types that cause 7 out of 10 cervical cancers,2 but at a cost of only $16 million a year, it seems a bargain. And it will certainly keep the friendly folks at Gardasil® happy.

How bad is this problem? About 200 women a year develop cervical cancer in NZ at present and around 70 die from it per year. The vaccine should reduce the death rate to 30 a year. The Ministry of Health’s National Screening Unit (NSU)1 says the following factors increase the risk of getting cervical cancer:
* having first sexual encounter at an early age
* having more than one sexual partner: increased incidence of the cancer is proportionally linked to an increase in the number or partners;
* having a partner who has HPV, was sexually active at a young age or who has had more than one sexual partner.

The NSU says other factors linked to getting cervical cancer include:
* smoking
* the use of oral contraceptives
* a weakened immune system.

Now, the material sent to me by the Ministry of Health, in order to recruit my help in getting home educators into this vaccination programme, does not mention any of these risk factors. Actually, it said virtually nothing of any use at all.

The Ministry of Health website to which I was referred2 does say that the vaccination may only last for five years, but with near-universal vaccinations through the schools’ guinea pigs, they may find it gives longer-lasting protection. The NSU website,1 however, says it may take as long as 20 years for an HPV infection to turn cancerous. It also says that women who have never been sexually active hardly ever develop cervical cancer and that very few women with HPV actually develop the cancer. In addition, getting a tri-annual cervical smear test will eliminate the risk of developing the cancer by 90%. Both sources said that women should continue to get smear tests regardless of whether they ever got the vaccine or not.

After reading all of that unpleasant stuff, I concluded the vaccine was of very little practical value, even if you do accept the flawed and (to many) the outrageous assumption that most teenaged girls are sexually promiscuous. The programme is obviously quite a gold mine to the makers of Gardasil® and keeps a lot of people in the MoH, the MoE, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commission all happily busy spending our tax dollars. I have declined getting involved with the programme.

2.http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/indexmh/immunisationdeseasesand vaccines-hpv-programme-questions#cause

From: TEACH Bulletin, September 2008, Number 125, P O Box 9064, Palmerston North