(NewsTarget) A researcher who has spent 20 years studying human papillomavirus (HPV) and did the bulk of the work that was used to develop a vaccine for several strains of the virus has warned that mandating the vaccine for girls under the age of 18 may actually backfire, causing cervical cancer rates to go up.
Twenty-six states are considering some form of mandatory HPV vaccination for school-age girls.
Diane M. Harper, director of Dartmouth Medical School’s Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in New Hampshire, warned that there have been no tests of the vaccine’s effectiveness on girls under the age of 15. The drug may not be effective on younger girls, and it may have unforeseen side effects or interactions with other vaccines given at that age. Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended it for ages 9-26.
“Giving it to 11-year-olds is a great big public health experiment,” Harper said. “To mandate now is simply to Merck’s benefit, and only to Merck’s benefit.”
The HPV vaccine produced by Merck protects against two strains of the virus that have been identified as responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. But with the way the drug is being marketed, Harper is concerned that vaccinated women may decide that they are immune, and forego their yearly Pap smear testing.
Harper also warned that the vaccine is ineffective if given to someone who is already infected — and because HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact, a person does not have to be sexually active to contract it. For this reason, Harper suggests giving the vaccine only to those who test negative for the targeted HPV strains.
The HPV test is conducted by vaginal swab, which Harper says is inappropriate for children.
Finally, Harper warned that not enough research has been done to know how long the vaccine lasts, or at what age a booster may be needed. This means that even if the vaccine is effective in young girls, it may have worn off by the age at which they are most susceptible to cervical cancer.
“The push for mandatory vaccination is based on marketing, not science,” added Mike Adams, author of numerous articles that oppose mandatory vaccination policies. “It’s nothing but a clever Big Pharma scheme to sell more drugs to yet more people who don’t need them.”