Medicine and Politics

Huffington Post, Sept. 25, 2011

There is no way of knowing what the long-term effects of administering HPV vaccines are in young children. Historically, data about other vaccines is not reassuring. The Salk polio vaccine was grown in monkey kidney cells, which later were found to be contaminated with another virus not identified before the vaccine had been administered to millions of children. Sixty years later, there are still debates about what the potential effects of that occult virus might be.

There is still a great deal of work that needs be done to evaluate this new HPV vaccine. We don’t know if it results in lifelong immunity for those vaccinated. We don’t know if there is significant variability in the development of effective immunity to the vaccine. The unknown risks of the HPV vaccine deserve a thorough discussion — especially since it is a very costly intervention, which does not eliminate the need for customary follow-up surveillance of the disease it is being administered to prevent.

While a valid argument can be made that the use of the HPV vaccine is justified in third world countries where Pap smear screening and elimination of the premalignant lesions is not readily available, I believe that other strategies may be more appropriate for young girls and boys in the U.S., which will not expose them to potentially significant health risks.

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