Condoms remain the safest (and cheapest) method for preventing sexually
transmitted diseases. But the pharmaceutical / biomedical industry is Hell
bent on marketing more profitable invasive methods.
Merck has financed an aggressive lobbying campaign on behalf of its new
Gardasil vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV), carried out by
professional lobbyists and by Women in Government, an organization of state
Women in Government are trying to pass legislation in every state that would
force 11 year old girls to be vaccinated, or be prevented from going to
But Merck went one step further: on Friday, Texas Republican governor Rick
Perry issued a MANDATORY executive order to force all Texas girls to be
vaccinated with Gardasil, completely bypassing Texas’ legislative process,
overriding parental authority, and ignoring the ethical issues raised by a
vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease. Perry, of course, is a
recipient of Merck largesse.
If one looks beneath the surface, Merck’s strong-arm marketing tactics are
really a “Do or Die” effort to finance its huge Vioxx litigation costs.
Thus, the mandatory HPV vaccine campaign is really a campaign to “Help Pay
for Vioxx” losses.
American preteen girls have been designated to pay the price by exposing
their bodies to risks of harm.
Below, Meryl Nass, MD,* whose medical expertise includes vaccine safety,
epidemiology and biological warfare, provides insight into the medical and
ethical concerns–and the unanswered scientific questions about Merck’s
Among the issues addressed by Dr. Nass:
- Unlike infectious diseases that spread in schools–like polio and
measles–HPV is only transmitted sexually. Why, then, is Merck seeking
mandatory vaccine orders? Is it deliberately to usurp parental rights and
Since boys transfer the HPV virus to girls, why don’t boys get
vaccinated? Why are only girls being pushed to take the vaccine?
There are over 30 HPV viruses. Of these, 10 may cause cancer. Merck’s
vaccine is effective for only 4 of these potentially cancerous viruses.
Therefore, PAP tests are still essential to detect cancer and save lives, as
well as condoms, which remain the safest, most effective method for
preventing HIV transfer and numerous sexually transmitted diseases.
The oversell of Gradasil is likely to mislead those vaccinated to think
that they are safe when they are not. This has the potential of increasing
both STDs and cancer.
Other questions remain about the clinical trials:
How many girls participated in pre-licensure clinical trials and for how
long were they followed up? What is the nature of the adverse event reports
received by the government Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)
since its approval in July 2006 and February 2007?
According to the National Vaccine Information Center, between July 2006 and
January 2007, there have been 82 reports of adverse events filed with VAERS
following receipt of GARDASIL by girls and boys ranging in age from 11 to 27
years. Reaction reports have come from 21 states, including Virginia and the
District of Columbia. All but three of the reports were for adverse events
that occurred within one week of vaccination, and more than 60 percent
occurred within 24 hours of vaccination.
See: National Vaccine Information Center
The National Vaccine Information Center urges state legislatures to
investigate the safety and cost of mandating Merck’s HPV vaccine–before any
policy is adopted. The Alliance for Human Research Protection joins NVIC in
asking for investigations into the vaccine’s safety and cost.
*Dr. Nass is a board member of the Alliance for Human Research Protection.
See her vita at: http://www.anthraxvaccine.org/docs/CV121206.doc
Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Gardasil vaccine: Facts and Implications
Cervical cancer is caused by changes in the cells of the cervix caused by
human papilloma viruses (HPV). These viruses can also lead to cancer of the
vagina, vulva, anus, penis and scrotum.  The cancer-causing viruses are
At least 50% of sexually active men and women acquire a genital HPV
infection during their lives. The CDC says that by age 50, at least 80% of
women will have developed a genital HPV infection.
There are over 30 different HPV viruses that are sexually transmitted.
About ten of these have the potential to cause cancer.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, contains antigens designed to protect against 4
of the ten dangerous strains of HPV. Three doses are given over six months
for protection against these four strains only.
It is estimated that these 4 viruses cause 70% of HPV-induced cancers. The
other HPV viruses, not protected by the vaccine, cause 30% of cervical
The American Cancer Society estimates that 11,000 cases of cervical cancer
will be diagnosed in women this year, compared to 178,000 new cases of
breast cancer.  The Cancer Society says, “mortality rates for cervical
cancer have declined steadily over the past several decades due to
prevention and early detection as a result of screening.” They also note,
“Importantly, HPV infections are common in healthy women and only rarely
result in cervical cancer” and “fortunately, most cervical precancers
develop slowly, so nearly all cases can be prevented if a woman is screened
Because HPV viruses may live on skin around the genital area, condoms are
not 100% effective in prevention. However, condom use is associated with a
lower rate of cervical cancer.
What about men? About 1,500 new cases of penile cancer will be diagnosed in
men this year, and 1,900 cases of anal cancer, linked to HPV.
What does all this mean to me?
First, the vaccine is at best 70% effective, so you can still be infected
with HPV viruses that can lead to cervical and other cancers, even after
three doses of this vaccine. You can still get genital warts, but are at
lower risk. You will still need yearly PAP smears to protect against
cervical cancer. PAP tests are extremely effectively at preventing cervical
Second, you really should be using condoms for all sexual activity to
prevent HIV infection and a number of other sexually transmitted diseases.
Don’t get the wrong idea that this vaccine will allow you to safely avoid
the use of condoms.
Why don’t boys get this vaccine? Good question, since they transfer the HPV
virus to girls, and they also can get cancer. If boys took the vaccine
instead of girls, you could prevent approximately the same number of
How safe is the vaccine for me? Because it is a new vaccine and has only
been used in a few thousand people during clinical trials, the side effect
profile of the vaccine is still not known.
What if I get pregnant after getting Gardasil vaccine? Clinical trials
showed that women who became pregnant within one month of vaccination had
more birth defects than women who received placebo vaccine and became
pregnant. After 30 days, this apparent risk disappeared.
What if you were vaccinated, then learned you were pregnant? It is not
known if this is a problem, but it might be. Therefore, Merck, the
manufacturer, maintains a pregnancy registry to track the outcomes of
pregnancies during which women were vaccinated: call (800) 986-8999 to
report any Gardasil vaccinations during pregnancy.
Okay, if I still need to use condoms and get yearly PAP smears, what’s the
point of getting this vaccine?
* Women who don’t get pap smears, who have more partners, or who for
other reasons are at higher risk of cervical cancer may benefit from this
* Women who are monogamous or are not sexually active have a low risk
of cervical cancer.
* Gay men are at higher than average risk of penis and anus cancers
and may desire this vaccine. It is not known why the vaccine was not
approved for men.
Therefore, you should be able to choose whether to receive the vaccine.
However, if you get yearly PAPs, and practice safe sex, your benefit from
this vaccine is greatly diminished, or nil.
Why are governors and legislatures considering forced Gardasil vaccinations
for eleven-year-old girls?
Cervical cancer is not spread by casual contact. State governments are not
mandating Gardasil to protect students from infectious diseases like polio
or measles that can spread in schools. Instead, they are usurping the
parental role of determining what is best for their children’s health.
The retail cost of the 3 vaccine doses is $360, which will not be paid by
the lawmakers. Why not give free PAP smears to all interested women
instead, which would cost about the same amount?
Marketing is the answer. Merck developed this strategy to sell the largest
amount of vaccine: making every preteen girl get the shots. Year after
year, the vaccine market would be guaranteed, with Merck collecting
approximately 1 Billion dollars annually from US sales alone.
“At a Wall Street briefing last month, Peter Loescher, president of global
human health at Merck, said he emphasizes “speed, speed, speed” in a product
launch. Already, he noted, 80 percent of cities and states – including
Maryland – have ordered Gardasil to be distributed through Vaccines for
Children. The federally funded program provides free vaccines to doctors who
serve children with little or no insurance.”
Merck provides funding to the organization “Women in Government,” a
bipartisan group of state legislators, to sponsor its campaign for statewide
Women in Government’s work has included enacting legislation to require HPV
vaccine for school entry, obtaining medicaid coverage for HPV testing,
creating cervical cancer task forces at the state level, enacting cervical
cancer prevention legislation, and obtaining compulsory insurance
reimbursement for HPV testing and HPV vaccinations. Their website has a map
with each state tracked as to how far along it is toward enacting the
desired legislative mandates.
Bypassing the Texas Legislature altogether, the Republican Governor of
Texas, Rick Perry, issued an order Friday February 2, making Texas the first
state to require that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually
transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
Why did Merck emphasize speed in this product launch? They wanted to get
the vaccine mandates in place before the bad publicity started.
The Associated Press reports that one of Merck’s three lobbyists in Texas is
Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff. His current chief of staff’s
mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state
director for Women in Government. The governor also received $6,000 from
Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.
Instead of trying to prevent cancer, it is starting to look more and more
like the HPV vaccine really stands for “Help Pay for Vioxx” – Merck’s failed
arthritis pain pill that is costing the company several billion in
settlements for adverse effects and deaths. Merck’s strong-arm tactics for
marketing Gardasil are a “Do or Die” attempt to get the company back on a
secure financial footing. American preteen girls are to pay the price.
Yet it is not at all clear how long the vaccine will work. Boosters will
probably be needed after several years. Will new diseases crop up at higher
rates in those who were vaccinated?
The FDA is requiring Merck to gather more safety information: on autoimmune
conditions, cancer and possible birth defects. FDA wants to find out how
long protection lasts, and whether non-vaccine strains of HPV will “take
over” from the vaccine strains, in effect nullifying vaccine benefit.
Unless an eleven year old will begin sexual experimentation in the next
couple of years, there is plenty of time to wait and see how this vaccine
pans out, once it has been used in larger populations for longer periods of
time. Then an informed decision can be made regarding its value for you.
Meryl Nass, MD
1. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/STD/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm#Whatis
2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2007.20
3. Laura Smitherman. Drug firm pushes vaccine mandate. Baltimore Sun,
January 29, 2007.
4. Women in Government’s legislative toolkit: