Tuesday, September 29, 2009

They're Safe, Dangscragit.

A British girl died yesterday a few hours after receiving her first dose of Cervarix, a vaccine for HPV not approved in the US (an FDA panel did give a recommendation to approve it earlier this month, though). There is no evidence that her death was caused by the vaccination at this point.

Now, I'm a vaccine kind of girl. I've tested them and have had them tested on me. I know that countless lives have been saved because of them - have you ever met someone with smallpox? Polio? Highly doubtful - thanks to vaccines. Yes, I think they're one of the greatest achievements of humankind, right alongside space flight and salami.

Some insist they're unnecessary and others say they're actually harmful. I really try and be open and to hear things objectively in case I can go ahead and learn something, but I have Feelings about people letting pop science and fear dictate their health decisions.

Yes, some people do have bad reactions to vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control track these reactions closely. Any adverse event that occurs around the time of a vaccination is reported. If you get a flu shot then get hit by a bus on your way home from the doctor's, it's an adverse event.

Gardasil, a vaccine similar to Cervarix, was approved in the United States in 2006. In 2009, the CDC reported that 985 serious adverse events (events involving "hospitalization, permanent disability or death") have occurred since approval. That's an average of about 330 serious adverse events per year, some of which had absolutely nothing to do with the vaccine.

Considering that an average of 3700 women die (not become hospitalized, not become disabled - they die) of cervical cancer every year, I'm having a hard time understanding how HPV vaccines are anything but a big fat positive.

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