Family First supports vaccines which are proven to be safe and effective. However, the decision of whether to vaccinate against HPV or any other sexually transmitted infection should remain with the child’s parent / guardian. The use of these vaccines should involve informed consent for parents as well as education for both parents and youth regarding the potential benefits and risks of the vaccine.
Parents right to question HPV Vaccine
Media Release 15 March 2015
Family First NZ says that contrary to claims that ‘well-off Pakeha girls’ are rejecting the HPV vaccine, parents of all racial groups in New Zealand are rightly rejecting the pressure to have their children vaccinated for an infection which isn’t a communicable disease but a consequence of behaviour.
“The suggestion that parents of ‘well-off Pakeha girls’ are naïve is insulting and patronising. The claims being made grossly overestimate the sexual activity of young people and their need for the HPV Vaccine, and underestimating the harm. Ultimately the decision to vaccinate or not should be made by the parent after having received full and balanced information on its merits. At the moment, students are being proselytized with unbalanced information through their schools or health organisations, and parents are being bullied into an uninformed response,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. READ MORE
Gardasil – It’s Vital Parents Make An Informed Decision.
The Herald on Sunday screamed with the headline: “White girls don’t have sex” and highlighted the comments of a Massey University researcher who believes that well-off parents – and especially Pakeha parents – are in denial over the need for their teens to have the HPV Vaccinations otherwise known as Gardasil at the age of 12. But perhaps the ‘parents in denial’ that this media report disparagingly refers to are actually making an informed considered decision.
Is Gardasil a Godsend?
Bob McCoskrie – National Director Family First NZ
(Published in Christchurch Press 20 January 2009)
The previous government’s commitment to spend $160m over four years on the Gardasil vaccine for cervical cancer may have been more as a result of aggressive marketing by the drug company but without adequate research to warrant the huge taxpayer investment. Two recent articles the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that the vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence as to their cost benefit, and their effectiveness in tackling the disease. “Despite great expectations and promising results of clinical trials, we still lack sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer. With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious,” wrote Dr. Charlotte J. Haug, editor of The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association.
…Parents are ultimately being bullied into a medical response to a moral issue – similar to the myth of safe sex which has been misrepresented to teenagers for far too long. We are accepting by default that kids are going to be sexually active at a time that is not suitable or safe for them. It is ironic that we want to legislate to stop boy-racing, eating meat pies at school, and smoking – yet when it comes to at-risk sexual behaviour, we pump false information about supposed “safe-sex” programmes and then want to vaccinate children to protect them from the harms of that behaviour. While we are naturally all supportive of any attempts to fight cancer, parental knowledge or consent is essential when it involves children – especially when the infection is not a communicable disease but a consequence of behaviour – and while the jury is out on its long-term effectiveness.
Informed choice and mass immunization programmes
Women’s Health Action Trust – Women’s Health Update Feb 2009 (partly funded by the Ministry of Health!)
Christy Parker looks at some of the ethical issues surrounding mass immunization programmes targeting children and young people and argues that the principles of informed choice and consent must not be compromised by population health objectives.
When extraordinarily high immunization targets, aggressive marketing campaigns, and one sided information resources are employed, they risk undermining consumers’ rights to informed choice and informed consent…Offering practitioners financial incentives to meet high uptake targets works to undermine informed consent processes, especially when practitioners also believe that it is their “moral responsibility” to ensure children are immunized.
Once again there are unanswered questions around how long the vaccine will offer immunity. HPV vaccination programmes are also solely targeting girls and women when HPV infection is present in boys and men and is associated with other cancers and genital warts. HPV is thus a sexual health issue, not a women’s health issue and young women should not have to bear the burden for reducing the incidence of HPV related diseases. Further we risk sending young women the message that they alone are responsible for sexual health. Gardasil is also one of the most expensive vaccines ever sold and the programme will cost hundreds of millions of dollars- prompting questions about the gains given that women still need regular cervical smears with or without the vaccine.
..Ethical issues aside, safety is a major issue if aggressive one-sided marketing campaigns and poor information resources reduce young women’s ability to make a meaningful informed choice about Gardasil. Young women must understand that they will still need to have regular cervical smears because Gardasil does not offer “lifetime protection from cervical cancer” (as parents believed with meningococcal B). Gardasil does not protect against all cancer causing types of HPV and it is unknown how long immunity will last – experience tells us the duration of immunity is likely to be shorter than first thought. If young women do not understand the limitations of Gardasil there is a major risk that they may not participate in New Zealand’s excellent cervical screening programme.
Jab no sure protection from cervical cancer
NZ Herald Jun 8, 2010
The HPV vaccination could have the unintended consequence that more women with cervical cancer will not be diagnosed, the Ministry of Health has warned. The ministry’s national screen unit is concerned that young women believe they are protected from the disease once they are immunised. But the vaccine does not protect against 30 per cent of HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer. The ministry says there is a risk that these women will not attend regular screenings once they reach the recommended age of 20.
Giving kids our worst shot
MercatorNet – Carolyn Moynihan 20 April 2007
Do we really want to go down the path of vaccinating children against deficits of moral intelligence and willpower?
Launched nine months ago with the blessing of the United States Federal Drug Administration, Merck’s long-heralded remedy for cervical cancer has been predictably controversial. Any new vaccine is going to raise safety concerns, but one designed to prevent a sexually transmitted disease while targeting young girls, as Gardasil does, had family values groups on high alert. Any element of compulsion would be strongly contested.
….Gardasil is controversial not only because it is new and untried on wide scale, but because it is different to other childhood vaccines. Most are aimed at diseases easily spread in schools: measles, mumps and whooping cough, for example. The genital human papillomavirus (HPV) that Gardisil targets is sexually transmitted. It is a disease eminently avoidable given a good human standard of behaviour. Gardasil therefore represents a new departure in medicine, where vaccines are used to protect people from the consequences of poor behaviour.
….But why stop at sexual behaviour? Alcohol and drug abuse produce nearly as big a social burden as sexual promiscuity. No wonder then that scientists in the US are said to be in the final stages of developing a vaccine against nicotine addiction, with cocaine and other drugs not far behind. If young people are going to experiment with these things, why not addiction-proof the kids when they are 12? All of them.
Pap smears still essential, say specialists
Sydney Morning Herald August 26, 2008
AUSTRALIA’S cervical cancer rate could start to rise again if a new generation of young women vaccinated against the disease is not encouraged to continue having Pap smears.
Researchers Question Wide Use of HPV Vaccines Z
New York Times 21 August 2008
Two vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease, two articles in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine conclude.
Allergic reactions high after HPV jab
TVNZ Sep 2, 2008
Young women in Australia who got a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer were five to 20 times more likely to have a rare but severe allergic reaction than girls who got other vaccines in comparable school-based vaccination programs, researchers said. They said the severe allergic reactions to the human papillomavirus or HPV vaccine were unusual and manageable and that the vaccine remained safe.
The team of Australian researchers led by Dr Julia Brotherton of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead studied 114,000 young women vaccinated with Merck & Co’s Gardasil vaccine as part of a 2007 vaccination program in New South Wales. Of these, 12 had suspected cases of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause difficulty breathing, nausea and rashes, they reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Blaming the Media for Gardasil Hype
New York Times Blog August 29, 2008
Merck’s teen girl vaccine Gardasil has been under fire of late, with everyone from The New England Journal of Medicine to The New York Times questioning whether there is sufficient evidence to justify the widespread use of vaccines against cervical cancer. “I think the company did a very effective job of glossing over these questions in its marketing campaign and convincing the public that this vaccine would indeed prevent cervical cancer,’’ said Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC’s medical editor, last week.
Now, a pro-business media watchdog group has a new take on the issue. The hype about Gardasil isn’t the result of over-the-top marketing by Merck, it claims, but is instead the result of heavy promotion by the American news media. Merck’s ads weren’t alone in promoting Gardasil to the public. The news media framed its reporting around cervical cancer. Network doctors told parents not to be “talked out” of getting their children vaccinated, and some reports even urged mandatory vaccinations.
Debate rages over drug
NZ Herald August 31, 2008
A controversal anti-cancer vaccine to be given to 300,000 teenage girls starts this week amid criticism the project is a public experiment. The national human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme will from tomorrow offer free vaccines of Gardasil to protect against the two major strains of the virus that cause cervical cancer. The Government has pledged $177 million to the five-year programme to give girls aged 12 to 18 three injections to combat HPV, which causes 70 per cent of cervical cancer. The disease kills about 65 women annually as another 180 are diagnosed.
Critics, including the researcher who helped develop Gardasil, have raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, while wondering if it will encourage more young girls to be sexually active. …Auckland Women’s Health Council spokeswoman, Lynda Williams, was concerned that adequate information was not available for parents, children and doctors. Trials of Gardasil centred on 16- to 24-year-olds, as opposed to the younger age group targeted in New Zealand, said Williams. Diane Harper, a researcher who helped develop the vaccine at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth Medical School, said giving the vaccine to girls as young as 11 was “a great big public health experiment”.
Williams said there were too many unanswered questions for parents to be confident of the drug’s effectiveness. “This is a political decision,” she said. “So many decisions on women’s health issues have been made in the lead-up to an election and been rushed. If you’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a vaccine, there have to be more of these questions answered.”
Family First director Bob McCoskrie said more questions needed answers. “It seems we rushed in very quickly and committed a huge amount of money,” he said. “We can’t find the money for Herceptin, which you could argue may have as many question marks over the effectiveness of it, but we can pour this money into Gardasil.” Increasing promiscuity among young girls was another possible problem, but it was more important for parents to not be pressured into having their children vaccinated, said McCoskrie. “We all want a cure to it but we’ve also got to be realistic about what works best.”
Drug Makers’ Push Leads to Cancer Vaccines’ Rise
New York Times 20 Aug 2008
..some experts worry about the consequences of the rapid rollout of the new vaccines without more medical evidence about how best to deploy them. They say that because of the aggressive marketing, even parents of girls who are far from being sexually active may feel pressured into giving them a vaccine that is not yet needed and whose long-term impact is still unclear. Legislative efforts to require girls to have the vaccine only add to the pressure.
READ Family First Media Release
Is Taxpayer Victim of Aggressive Marketing for Gardasil?
22 Aug 2008
Cervical vaccine letter upsets mum
Christchurch Press 17 Oct 2009
A letter sent to a 13-year-old girl offering her a free cervical cancer vaccine has outraged her mother, who accuses health authorities of going behind parents’ backs. Rangiora mother Nancye Price said the letter from her family’s medical practice was addressed to her daughter, Hannah, who has just turned 13. “She just twisted her face up and handed me the letter saying, ‘I don’t know what they want.”‘ Mrs Price said the unsigned letter included no information about the Gardasil vaccine, except the fact it was free. “It was like they were inviting kids in for a lollipop,” she said. “My concern is they have bypassed parental consent. They don’t know anything about our family or our children or our lifestyle.”
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said parents were “right to be offended and completely outraged”. “It is incredible that a parent has to sign a letter for their child to go on a trip to the zoo or to be excused from wearing their PE gear at school, but can be completely ignored when their daughter is accessing a vaccine, contraception, or even an abortion … “Some teenagers may simply not have the maturity or knowledge to make these important health decisions.”
Govt still backing cancer vaccine
NZ Herald 19 Aug 2009
Women are still being advised by the Government to use the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil after a United States report raised some minor (!!) concerns about it… There were one or two cases per million girls of death, severe allergic reaction, dangerous blood clots or nerve injury that can cause paralysis. Health Minister Tony Ryall said the safety of the Gardasil vaccine was being continuously monitored in New Zealand.
A safety review published in the latest Journal Of The American Medical Association said 12,424 Gardasil vaccine recipients in America had suffered a number of side effects and even death since June 2006. Of those recorded cases, the study found 772 were considered serious and 1900 involved fainting.
NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/health/research/19vaccine.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=gardasil&st=cse
Herald Sun (Aust) http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25955503-662,00.html