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Experiment on Girls
March 24, 2007 permalink
This week's federal budget includes $300 million for a vaccine, Gardasil, against HPV.
Budget pledges billions for provinces, environment
Kady O'Malley, Macleans.ca | Mar 19, 2007 | 6:42 pm EST
other budget items omitted
Slightly more contentious may be the $300-million earmarked for the provinces to vaccinate girls and women against HPV - the sexually-transmitted virus responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. In recent weeks, several American states have been forced to back down from making the vaccine mandatory after social conservatives objected to it on the grounds that it could promote promiscuity.
In the days when contagious disease killed half of all children before age of majority, vaccines, even dangerous ones, were a godsend. For Gardasil, the benefit is not so clear. It helps only sexually promiscuous women and even among them, only a small proportion die of HPV induced cancer. Gardasil is new, and long-term dangers are unknown. If it causes some hitherto unknown pathology, it could do more harm than good. Canadians will have no choice in the matter. The presence of CAS alleging "medical neglect" will make Gardasil mandatory for all Canadian girls.
Gardasil is not cheap. Vaccination for one girl costs several hundred dollars just for the drug. In this case the drug company, Merck, has aimed its promotional efforts at legislators instead of consumers. The Conservative government led by Stephen Harper, which started out on the right foot by cutting public funding for daycare in favor of more money for parents, now seems to have shifted back to the old policies of strengthening the medical and social services systems at the expense of families.