by Heidi Stevenson
Just as it is in the west, the HPV vaccine is being heavily marketed in India. The heavy pressure to roll it out has resulted in tragic deaths of girls given the vaccines. Now, a report by the British Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has come out with a study demonstrating that the HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, cannot be justified in India. More scandalous, though, is that their results clearly reflect that these vaccines are even less justified in the western world, including the USA, UK, Europe, Canada, and Australia. That, though, is never mentioned in their report..
The primary point brought out by the study(1) is that the rate of cervical cancer is not high enough to justify the cost and risks associated with Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines. Further, the authors noted that the rate of cervical cancer in India has dropped dramatically in a little more than 20 years, from 43 cases per 100,000 in 1982-83 down to 22 per 100,000 in 2004-05. This point alone should clarify that the cause of cervical cancer is likely mostly associated with something that’s controllable in the environment. India’s standard of living has risen dramatically in the last 25 years, and that may be the most significant factor in cervical cancer rates.
The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), which has close ties with the Bill Gates Foundation(2), is the primary force behind pushing HPV vaccines in India. Of course, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also actively push them because they manufacture the vaccines.
The British study has harsh words for the conclusions that PATH reached. They quote the PATH document, “Shaping a Strategy to Introduce HPV Vaccines in India, “Results from the HPV Vaccines’ states that ‘in raw numbers, India has the largest burden of cancer of the cervix of any country worldwide.” Then, they state.
This claim is not supported by the references, moreover data from the cancer registries in Gujarat or the Cancer Atlas were not cited.
PATH selected Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat ‘based on cervical cancer disease burden’ and because they were ‘in the middle range for certain variables (e.g., immunization coverage)’. There are no references provided for this statement.
Of the five studies that PATH cites in relation to cervical cancer or HPV epidemiology, one study could not be traced; the HBCR report is not comprehensive and does not provide age-adjusted cervical cancer incidence rates; and the three remaining studies did not examine epidemiology of cancer but reported on HPV prevalence and type distribution. Only one study was conducted in Andhra Pradesh and none in Gujarat. The three studies were conducted in rural populations in the south, and urban populations in the south and north of India.
In other words, the British study found that the claims made by PATH are not supported by any evidence!
The authors concluded:
Neither the epidemiological evidence nor current cancer surveillence systems justify the general rollout of a HPV vaccination programme either in India or in the two states where PATH was conducting its research. HPV vaccination programmes should only proceed where there is both strong epidemiological evidence and where there are adequate surveillance and monitoring systems.
The cervical cancer rate does not justify the costs or risks for the HPV vaccine.
Study Implications for Industrialized Nations
This study about the lack of justification of the HPV vaccine in India has strong implications for its massive rollout in the west. All we need to do is compare the incidence of cervical cancer in India with those of western nations:
India United States of America United Kingdom
22 per 100,000 8.0 per 100,000(3) 10.5 per 100,000(4)
Even in terms of cancer rates, these are low. In the UK, the total annual rate of cancer as of 2008 was 466.3/100,000(4). In the US, the rate for 2008 was 517.6/100,000(5). The study did not give an overall cancer rate in India. It did, though, focus on the fact that the mortality rate (not incidence, but actually death rate) of Indian women from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases was 283/100,000, and compared it with the death rate from cervical cancer: 7.7/100,000.
In the US and UK, the cervical cancer rate is less than half that found in India. This study found that giving the HPV vaccine makes no sense in light of both its cost and harmful effects. This doesn’t even consider the fact that no cause-and-effect connection between HPV and cancer has ever been shown, so there is nothing to demonstrate that the very expensive HPV vaccines even accomplish what they claim.
The implication of this study for the industrialized nations is that the HPV vaccines make no sense, even without taking into account the question of whether they actually do prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a relatively rare disease. It isn’t even in the top ten cancers. Whether we like to accept it or not, the fact is that cost of medical treatment does matter. If we spend too much on one thing, then we won’t have enough to spend on something else. So, we must make rational decisions.
So, the question is: Does it make any sense to promote a vaccine for HPV? Consider these facts:
There is no proof that it prevents cancer.
The cost of the vaccine is extremely high and must be repeated at least three times for initial coverage and again every few years.
The rate of cervical cancer is quite low.
The cure rate of cervical cancer is quite high.
The adverse effects are devastating.
Clearly, it does not. Whether in India or a western nation, there simply is no justification for the HPV vaccines—unless, of course, you’re Merck or GSK.
Video of Study Author Discussing Problems Found in the PATH Claims
Professor Allyson Pollock, one of the paper’s researchers, is interviewed in this video. She states quite clearly that it will take at least 30 years to know if the vaccine works to prevent cancer and specifically states that PATH is hugely irresponsible in pushing the HPV vaccines in India. She clarifies quite clearly why the HPV vaccine makes no sense in India. It’s a shame she didn’t expand her comments to the use of these vaccines in the west [8:55]: