Scientists Unsure About HPV Vaccine's Long-term Safety

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 15 2008 2:50 PM

A scientific review has raised several concerns regarding mandating HPV vaccination as a condition for school attendance.

The HPV vaccine, sold as Gardasil in the U.S., is intended to prevent four strains of the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. It also prevents against cervical cancer.

Gail Javitt, Deena Berkowitz, and Lawrence O. Gostin of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University assert that Gardasil is relatively new and long-term safety and effectiveness in the general population is unknown.

They say that outcome of those voluntarily vaccinated should be followed for several years before mandates are imposed.

According to them, the HPV vaccine does not represent a public health necessity of the type that has justified previous vaccine mandates, and thus raises Constitutional concerns.

The reviewers argue that state mandates may lead to a public backlash that will undermine both HPV vaccination efforts, and existing vaccination programs.

Shedding light on the economic consequences of mandating HPV, they note that it may have a negative impact on financial support for other vaccines and public health programs.

The reviewers insist that such consequences should be evaluated before the vaccine is mandated.

"HPV will not be the last disease that state legislatures will attempt to prevent through mandatory vaccination. This is a good time to reevaluate the criteria that should be used to mandate vaccination of children as a condition of school attendance," the authors conclude.

The article has been published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics.