By: Louise Kus Habakus
27 September 2010 (exerpts)
Compulsory vaccination represents a severe limitation of our human, civil, individual and parental rights. It is very important to understand the arguments and justifications for vaccine mandates offered by doctors and public health officials. While the public health system usually appears anonymous and impersonal, a conference like the one I attended this week is an opportunity to see the individuals behind the system. The people who participated in the program are among the leaders upholding vaccine mandates in our country.
On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, I attended a full day conference on the Science, Ethics and Politics of Vaccine Mandates. The event took place on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in the Biomedical Research Building. Conference sponsors were the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the University of Pennsylvania Health System (HUP), the Society for Health Care Epidemiology of America, and the Center for Vaccine Ethics and Policy. Organizers and participants included including Paul Offit (CHOP), Arthur Caplan (Director of the Center for Bioethics), Dan Salmon (DHHS, Vaccine Safety) and Eddy Bresnitz (former New Jersey Health Commissioner, now head of adult vaccines at Merck).
Although there was a “waitlist,” the room was not full; there were fewer than 100 people in attendance. They reserved the first row for press and none came, as far as I could tell.
PANEL #3 – Mandating the HPV Vaccine
Diane Harper, MD – University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Her bio is available HERE. Harper said a health mandate is tolerated when:
- the disease is rapidly spread,
- the disease is lethal,
- no other preventive measures exist, and
- the benefit to the entire population outweighs individual choice (as evidenced by proven duration of efficacy greater than 15 years).
Her position is that these points do not hold and there is therefore no health mandate for HPV vaccination:
- HPV infection is spread through deliberate skin-to-skin contact; it is not airborne and contagious.
- HPV is not lethal. Ninety percent of HPV infections are immediately cleared without symptoms, 5% of infections cause no harm, 5% of infections develop into pre-cancers. The progression of these pre-cancers is very slow.
- Cytology screening is very effective and treatment is 100% effective.
- Gardasil has proof of duration of 5 years; Cervarix 8.5 years.
Harper says HPV vaccination should be a choice not a mandate. New data released this year show that the benefit of vaccination is the same for naïve and previously exposed women and therefore, the age at which she makes the decision to receive an HPV vaccine is no longer critical.
A man in the audience stood up, announced that he was from Merck Research Labs and declared that Dr. Harper was wrong. He forcefully said she could not tell the room that the age of vaccination did not matter. They briefly argued about the new research results. He was clearly concerned about the risk her comments might pose to the status of the HPV vaccine’s sixth grade ACIP recommendation. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) develops written recommendations for pediatric and adult vaccination schedules. The CDC publishes these recommendations.