- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Only a minority of parents support the state forcing their daughters to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which causes most cervical cancer cases, despite the push by state legislatures to do so, according to a report released yesterday by the University of Michigan Health System.

“We found that a minority of parents — 44 percent — are in favor of an HPV vaccine mandate for school entry, and that more than one-quarter of parents unequivocally disagree with HPV-vaccine mandates,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, a pediatrician and associate professor of public policy at the campus.

According to the poll of 1,342 parents, the 44 percent who agree with mandatory state HPV-vaccination laws were outnumbered by 30 percent who described themselves as neutral on the matter and 26 percent who oppose.

The study was released as the public-interest group Judicial Watch said three deaths were related to the lone HPV vaccine on the market, Merck & Co.’s Gardasil, and that there were 1,637 reports of adverse reactions to the inoculations based on its analysis of documents it obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The FDA adverse-event reports on the HPV vaccine read like a catalog of horrors,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Any state or local government now beset by Merck’s lobbying campaigns to mandate this HPV vaccine for young girls ought to take a look at these adverse health reports. It looks as if an unproven vaccine with dangerous side effects is being pushed as a miracle drug.”

Judicial Watch said one physician’s assistant reported that a patient “died of a blood clot three hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine.” Two other reports, on a girl 12 and a young woman 19, reported deaths relating to heart problems and/or blood clotting. It also said 371 of the 1,637 adverse reactions to the inoculation were serious.

Merck could not be reached for comment.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics are in favor of universal, but not mandatory, HPV vaccinations for 11- and 12-year-old girls. The vaccine is capable of protecting against the four viruses that cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers.

More than 20 states and the District of Columbia have introduced or passed bills requiring the vaccine, sparking arguments between those who cite the preventative health merits of the vaccine and those who criticize its effectiveness and expense. Concerned Women for America and other groups oppose the vaccine, saying it promotes promiscuity and represents “governmental overreach.”

Cultural factors play a part as well, including debates over parental control and public suspicion of vaccines and pharmaceutical companies. To date, only Virginia has passed the vaccination mandate.

Some regions are bypassing the legislatures, though. On Tuesday, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City presented the Missouri city with a $2 million grant to fund an HPV-vaccination program for 5,000 low-income girls, to be available in public clinics by August. An additional $11 million grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health will fund free vaccines elsewhere in the state.

The UMHS study was based on an online survey administered to a random sample of 2,076 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Network’s online KnowledgePanelSM. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect the U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About two-thirds of the sample were parents.

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