The Federal Ministry of Health has announced its intention to roll out the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for the treatment of teenage girls.
The roll out is scheduled to begin by October 2023.
Questions have, however, been raised on the ministry’s choice of Gardasil, one of the vaccine brands that has been approved for use.
Despite being one of the brands of vaccines that have been put to use by the same ministry in the past, FIJ recently found that Gardasil has a spotty history.
HPV vaccines are modern-day healthcare essentials for girls to prevent the contraction of HPV which is a major cause of cervical cancer in women. HPV can also lead to other types of cancer in men and women. Medical experts and international health organisations have prescribed the vaccination of girls from as early as 11 years old. Young adults can also get vaccinated against HPV.
Merck & Co, Gardasil’s manufacturer, has claimed that its HPV vaccine is as safe and effective as most vaccine brands. However, a vaccine trial in India and a vaccination exercise in the United States of America gave some Gardasil vaccine users a less ideal experience.
FIVE GIRLS USED GARDASIL, FELL ILL, DIED MONTHS LATER
In 2009, 16,000 girls received three doses of the Gardasil HPV vaccine in Khamman District, Telangana State (formerly part of Andhra Pradesh), India. A few weeks later, many of these girls fell ill.
Months later, five girls died.
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an American non-governmental organisation (NGO) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, oversaw the vaccine trials.
Private investigators, women advocacy groups and the local authorities scrutinised the deaths of the girls months after using Gardasil.
A standing committee on health and family welfare said that consent was not properly given on behalf of most of the girls who partook in the vaccine trials in an investigative report submitted in 2013.
According to the standing committee, most of the girls’ parents and guardians were illiterate and this made hostel wardens in their schools approve of the trials on their behalf.
Sama, an NGO that specialises in women’s health and welfare, went on a fact-checking mission in the affected areas in 2010 and found that over 120 girls experienced serious adverse effects after taking Gardasil. These effects included epileptic seizures, heavy menstrual bleeding, mood swings, severe menstrual cramps, headaches and severe stomach aches.
India’s Supreme Court waded in and Sama further testified that the girls’ deaths were not properly investigated. The deaths of the girls were ruled as suicide, accidents or infections, but all without an autopsy.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare in India recommended legal action be filed against PATH for violating ethical standards and breaking national health law.
Vivien Tsu, the director of PATH’s cervical cancer prevention project, disagreed with India and said that the parliamentary standing committee’s report was “inaccurate in many details and incorrectly implies violations of approved practices”.
“PATH is committed to meeting the highest scientific, ethical, and legal standards in our work.”
WHY THERE ARE 92 CASES AGAINST GARDASIL
Although Gardisil was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, there have been repeated complaints from users about the same vaccine brand in the United States.
Some of those complaints culminated in lawsuits. There are no less than 92 lawsuits connected to Gardisil on Miller & Zois LLC’s lawsuit information webpage alone.
Miller & Zois LLC summarised its work and the basis of its clients’ lawsuits on a special Gardisil webpage:
“Our lawyers are helping victims who want to bring a Gardasil HPV vaccine lawsuit throughout the United States. Our law firm is particularly focused on ovarian failure cases that lead to infertility in women who have taken Gardasil in the last few years,” the American law firm stated.
“Gardasil is a vaccine intended to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer in women. Gardasil was developed by the embattled pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.
“Merck obtained FDA approval for Gardasil in 2006 based on deceptive research and clinical trials that misrepresented the vaccine’s efficacy while concealing its safety risks and side effects. Merck then launched an aggressive and highly misleading marketing campaign to include millions of parents vaccinating their pre-teen daughters with Gardasil.”
Miller & Zois LLC initiated the class action against Merck, Gardasil’s manufacturer, in September 2022. By August, there were 92 lawsuits prepared in Miller & Zois LLC’s class act against Merck.
The law firm said that it was preparing for trials in September.
NIGERIA’S USE OF GARDASIL
Gardasil was approved in the US and India, is it approved in Nigeria?
The Federal Ministry of Health hardly mentions the brand names of vaccines it uses for HPV vaccination. However, FIJ found that Cervarix, by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Gardasil were both approved HPV vaccines in Nigeria.
Both vaccines are used in Nigeria. GSK’s Cervarix also came under scrutiny the same period the Indian girls died because two girls who received Cervarix also fell ill and died shortly afterwards.
The Global Pro-life Alliance (GPA), the Council on National Policies and the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Owerri, Archdiocese, for Ethics Committee, wrote to the Senate to voice distrust in HPV vaccines.
“We wish to highlight a groundbreaking new study that we have attached to this communication. This study reveals that the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix, currently administered to girls in Nigerian schools without a doctor’s prescription, have been proven ineffective in black women, as determined by researchers in the United States. Uses of condoms by partners provide better protection than vaccines for HPV among newly sexually active women,” Philip Njemanze, Chairman of GPA, stated.
“These current vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) protect against 2 human papillomavirus (HPV) types, HPV 16 and 18, which are associated with 70 percent of cervical cancers and 50 percent of high-grade cervical lesions. Black race, Hispanic ethnicity, and higher area-based poverty are salient predictors of lower HPV 16/18 positivity among women with high-grade cervical lesions.
“These data suggest that HPV vaccines might have lower impact among black and Hispanic women and those living in high poverty areas.”
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states pain, redness, or swelling in the arm, dizziness or fainting, fever, muscle or joint pain, nausea, tiredness and headache as side effects of Gardasil and Cevarix.
HPV vaccines are very important. Parents are encouraged to ask more questions about the risks and consider their children’s peculiar health statuses.
Parents must also give full consent before their children get the HPV vaccines.
The government and its health ministries also have to be very transparent about the nature of HPV vaccine cost and safety.
Be the first to receive special investigative reports and features in your inbox.