Thursday, March 22, 2007

Top Researcher: 'Untested' Vaccine Could Harm

Says HPV 'experiment' on girls might even increase cancer rate

From "Top researcher: 'Untested' vaccine could harm" posted 3/15/07 at

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.

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