Vaccines and other drugs are among the products for which informed decisions have to be made, with drawbacks and risks to go along with the benefits. Given both financial incentive and simple human imperfection, those informed decisions have to be made on a shifting ground in which the most-informed experts are apt to change their recommendations. Caffeinated coffee, for example, is one product in which a general notion that it’s an unhealthy vice has more or less been reversed, but examples are sufficiently plentiful that readers can pick their own favorites.
Now, the American College of Pediatricians is warning that the risks of the Gardasil vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) have been insufficiently understood, making the vaccine more dangerous than previously thought:
Many adolescent females are vaccinated with influenza, meningococcal, and tetanus vaccines without getting Gardasil®, and yet only 5.6% of reports related to ovarian dysfunction since 2006 are associated with such vaccines in the absence of simultaneous Gardasil® administration. The overwhelming majority (76%) of VAERS reports since 2006 with ovarian failure, premature menopause, and/or amenorrhea are associated solely with Gardasil®. When VAERS reports since 2006 are restricted to cases in which amenorrhea occurred for at least 4 months and is not associated with other known causes like polycystic ovary syndrome or pregnancy, 86/89 cases are associated with Gardasil®, 3/89 with CervarixTM, and 0/89 with other vaccines administered independently of an HPV vaccine.5 Using the same criteria, there are only 7 reports of amenorrhea from 1990 through 2005 and no more than 2 of those associated with any one vaccine type.
The warning does note that the affliction remains rare and that studies are underway to develop a better understanding of any risks, but the College emphasizes that results could take years to develop and, in the meantime, physicians, parents, and patients should be aware of the matter before making any decisions.
In consultation with their own doctors, parents and their children may decide that the benefits of the vaccine are worth the risks and unknowns, but in this context, it’s worth remembering that the state government of Rhode Island has mandated the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys in their early teenage years. Moreover, the state did so through bureaucratic fiat, without the involvement of elected legislators in the General Assembly. That is, the State of Rhode Island has injected itself into the educated decision that families must make about this drug by requiring any family that declines to take the risk to register a religious exemption with the state.