CAP calls for the scrapping of a costly and 'irrelevant' programme aimed at protecting youngsters from a sexually transmitted infection.
GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has urged the Health Ministry to scrap the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme for 13-year-old girls, saying the funds would be better used for cervical cancer screening.
CAP president SM Mohamed Idris said today that medical studies had shown HPV vaccines to have deadly side effects.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and goes away on its own in most cases.
Speaking at a press conference today, Idris called on the government to re-channel HPV vaccination funds towards improving its cervical cancer screening (CCS) programme.
He said the CCS programme should include pap smear tests for all women, particularly those who were pregnant, getting married or above the age of 17.
Pap smears have been proven effective in early detection of cervical cancer.
“The ministry should conduct more public awareness programmes on cervical cancer and its prevention,” Idris said.
He described the current HPV vaccination programme as irrelevant, saying girls in the targeted group were rarely promiscuous. Moreover, he noted, the programme protected against only a handful of about 200 HPV types.
Of the 200-odd types, 40 are known to cause tumours.
“The vaccines do not protect against 36 other cancer-related HPV types,” said Idris.
He added that the side effects of HPV vaccinations were serious and could be fatal.
As of July last year, 27,908 Gardasil adverse events were filed with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in the US, with more than 120 deaths, more than 10,000 emergency room visits and more than 2,500 hospitalisations.
Another 12 death reports in VAERS have been associated with Cervarix.
In a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, the cancer-related HPV types addressed by the ministry’s programme occurred only in 13 of the 38 Malaysian women tested.
The other 25 had cancer-causing HPV types not protected by the vaccines.
Idris said scientists were still uncertain about how and when HPVs could cause cancer, meaning that tumour-causing HPV types might not necessarily be cancer-producing.
He also noted that the vaccines in the ministry’s programme gave protection for only four years, meaning that they would work only when the girls were between 13 and 17 years old.
“Are there any studies to show that Malaysian girls are most sexually active at that age group?” he asked.
He cautioned that the programme might have the reverse effect of giving the vaccinated girls courage to engage in sexual activity.
“The root cause of contracting HPV, that is sexual relations with multiple partners, should be tackled by education and instilling religious and moral values,” he said.