“Merck lobbied every opinion leader, women’s group, medical society, politicians, and went directly to the people — it created a sense of panic that says you have to have this vaccine now.” –Dr. Diane Harper, Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School
Even the FDA was suspiciously eager to approve and recommend the Merck HPV vaccine. Unlike other vaccines, which usually take three years to be FDA-approved after the conclusion of clinical testing, Gardasil sped through the system in a mere six months. With similar alacrity, only a few weeks after its FDA approval, the CDC recommended Gardasil for universal use among girls. Typically, it takes vaccines from 5 to 10 years to achieve this kind of universal status.
Skeptics of the Merck super drug marketing=super drug safety paradigm have pointed out that the usual grace period between the time a vaccine enters the market and the time it is universally adopted allows for adverse reactions, side-effects and other problems to be found before they have an impact on a huge population. In the case of Gardasil, there have already been nearly 1,000 voluntary reports from doctors and nurses of their patients experiencing adverse events after receiving the vaccine. Most were not serious, and ranged from arm pain to fainting, but six percent were quite serious and included paralysis, blood clots, and at least 20 deaths. The worst reactions, as well as any and all long-term complications, may be still to come.
Because the duration of Gardasil clinical trials was only five years, it is also not clear how long the vaccine offers protection against some strains of HPV. (It only offers 70% protection against HPV at full strength to begin with.) Some of Merck’s own clinical trials suggested that HPV protection wears off in some girls as early as three years after receiving Gardasil…which will probably translate into the need for girls and women to get booster shots every few years, ad infinitum.
The cost of this madness? To families, between $400 and $1,000 (and insurance companies are not necessarily covering it) for each girl who receives the three-shot series. To the US government, if distribution of Gardasil continues to grow according to Merck’s marketing plan, more than $1 billion a year.
Merck, of course, is already ringing in sales of Gardasil at $1.6 billion this year outside of Europe alone. In Europe, it sells still more of the vaccine, though direct consumer marketing by drug companies is illegal on most of the continent.
While Merck and its ever-growing stream of paid off yes-men continue to insist that HPV is a serious threat to the country, the plain statistics are that eighty percent of human beings contract HPV in their lifetimes, and in the vast majority of cases, our natural immunities clear it up on their own.
Is Gardasil going to prove as dangerous to the public as Vioxx did? The simple answer is that it’s too soon to tell. Gardasil was approved for widespread use so quickly that the data isn’t there yet. And while the jury is still out, it’s a good idea to be cautious.
Families should have a right to choose whether or not their daughters receive this vaccine, but more and more states, under the pressure of Merck lobbyists, are considering mandating it for school age girls. A bill has already passed in Virginia making Gardasil mandatory for school entry by the start of the 2009 school year. Please contact your Congressperson to raise your voice against state mandates of this Merck product.