Does Gardasil Ward Off Cancer?
Ever since the Gardasil vaccine entered clinical trials, the HPV preventative vaccine has been generating controversy. At the start of the debate, the issue was whether administering the vaccine to young girls gave them the idea they had their parents' approval to be sexually active. Then the debate turned to whether it was sexist to vaccinate girls and not boys. Soon enough, the debate turned to safety when numerous young girls experienced some very serious side effects from the vaccine.
But that wasn't the end of the debate. As it turns out, we should have wondered whether Gardasil does what it's supposed to do in the first place. Is it really effective against HPV, genital warts and cervical cancer?
One factor that is worth examining is the duration of the HPV vaccine. The current vaccines don't last very long. Experts agree that if the vaccines worked for 15 years or so, it would make sense to vaccinate young girls. In the case where a nine year-old girl is vaccinated, such a long-term vaccine would protect her from certain precancerous and cancerous conditions until she turned 24. But the vaccine doesn't last that long. That means that it's unlikely that any cancers are prevented. Perhaps it offers a short postponement at most for these cancers.
But even if we leave the issue of duration, we come to the issue of safety. At a 2009 meeting of the American Neurological Association, neurologists at the Baltimore meeting said that they had confirmed one case in which the Gardasil vaccine triggered motor neuron disease, an auto-immune condition. Other very serious adverse effects have been reported with Gardasil, including deaths.
You might then look at the rate of cancer. Has the rate for cancer gone down since Gardasil became available? The answer is that no reduction in cervical cancer rates has been seen in the U.S. since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began recommending the HPV vaccination.
There's a reason why Gardasil doesn't really make a dent in cervical cancer rates. The Pap smear is a very effective method of screening women for cancer of the cervix. Since doctors already perform Pap smears, the Gardasil vaccine doesn't really add anything to the picture. See the statistics for yourself:
*For U.S. women who have annual Pap smears, the rate for cancer of the cervix stands at 7 in every 1000 women per year.
*For women who only receive the Gardasil vaccine, the rate of cervical cancer is 14 in every 100,000 women. This is two times the rate of those women who have been having regular Pap smears since the age of 21.
*Women who receive the other HPV vaccine, Cervarix, have a rate of cervical cancer that is 9 in 100,000 every year, still more women than for those who only get Pap smears.
* In those women who opt out of both the smears and the vaccinations, the rate of cervical cancer jumps to 90 in 100,000 per year.