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Press release - 7 May 2008
Open letter to Alan Johnson MP regarding cervical cancer mass vaccination
According to media reports, the Department of Health intends to launch a vaccination programme for all 12 year old girls this autumn, with a catch up campaign to include all women until the age of 18 in 2009, which would make a total of more than two and a half million individuals in the UK.
Concerns about the safety of the vaccine have been voiced by several consumer protection groups both within the UK and abroad, including Judicial Watch, the National Vaccine Information Centre and the Alliance for Human Research Protection.
In addition to these concerns, we ask that you consider the following points:
* The Vaccine Adverse Effects Register in the USA records at least seven deaths among girls recently vaccinated with this product;
* In addition, adverse effects of the vaccine are thought to include Guillain-Barre syndrome; a potentially serious condition where the body attacks its own nervous system;
* The vaccine manufacturer does not know whether effective protection against the human papilloma virus (HPV) infection lasts for longer than five years, so vaccinating little girls now will not necessarily protect them later;
* The vaccine is effective against only 70 per cent of HPV-related cervical cancers;
* The New England Journal of Medicine (May 10, 2007) recently reported that, by suppressing four of the more than 100 known strains of this virus, the vaccine might actually create an opportunity for other strains to flourish;
* Based on the relative lack of evidence on benefit and safety of the vaccine, the approval of this product by the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) should be brought into question. Indeed, the precautionary principle should apply in this situation;
* It has been suggested that a more cost-effective way of preventing cervical cancer is through pap smears, which detect pre-cancerous cells and have reduced the cervical cancer death rate by 75 per cent in the US;
* All women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years under the NHS. In contrast, a full course of the vaccine will cost the NHS £240 plus VAT, before any discount for volume. The initial vaccination programme will cost around £100 million, we are told;
* Most HPV infections (more than 90 per cent) clear up by themselves within two years. Of the remainder, infection alone is insufficient to cause cancer. Some of the additional risk factors include having multiple sex partners and not using a condom. So very simple personal choices determine most of the risk of HPV;
* There is no animal model for human papilloma virus infection. Although mice, rabbits and monkeys were used to test safety and efficacy of the vaccine, human-specific adverse effects cannot be ruled out.
We should like to inform you that we are releasing this letter to the media.
Andre Menache MRCVS
Dr Peter Mansfield MA,MB, BChir., CertGAM, FRSA
Notes to editors:
Antidote Europe is a non profit NGO, comprising research scientists sharing a common goal of improving human health.
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