Friday, March 16, 2007

BS Update

A couple of weeks ago, I expressed my doubts about mandated HPV vaccination. Among other things, I questioned the efficacy of such a program, as well as the wisdom of implementing it.

If anything, I may have underplayed the hand:

"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."

Dartmouth professor Diane Harper actually worked on the study which formed the basis for the vaccine's approval, and notes that it was tested only on women aged 15 to 25. In fact, she believes that it's most helpful for those who are at least 18. It also appears that at least one member of the Centers for Disease Control's advisory committee on immunizations has reported that "while the vaccine may be helpful, it should not be mandatory."

What really brought it home for me, though is her assertion that "it's not been tested for effectiveness in younger girls, and administering the vaccine to girls as young as 9 may not even protect them at all. And, in the worst-case scenario, instead of serving to reduce the numbers of cervical cancers within 25 years, such a vaccination crusade actually could cause the numbers to go up." [NB: that link seems to work only sporadically]

She echoes my concern that we really don't know what the long-term effects of the vaccine will be. I generally try to err on the side of caution, which would initially seem to be "heck, go for the vaccine - after all, where's the harm?" But the risks here are great, and the downside is particularly troublesome.

It's nice to be validated.
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