Azara Blog: Some committee wants all girls to be vaccinated against virus that causes cervical cancer

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Date published: 2007/06/20

The BBC says:

All girls aged between 12 and 13 in the UK should be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer, a government panel has recommended.

The government in England said while it accepted the advice "in principle", it would have to decide if the programme was financially viable.

It is thought that vaccinating against human papillomavirus (HPV) could save hundreds of lives in the UK each year.

But experts say it could be 20 years before the first benefits are seen.

It will also prove expensive, costing around £250 for three doses over six months.

However, campaigners say it represents value for money given how effective it is in combating HPV, which is held responsible for around 70% of cervical cancer cases.

The disease kills 274,000 women worldwide every year, including 1,120 in the UK.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) examined the evidence surrounding the vaccines before concluding that 12-and 13-year-old girls should all be immunised.
Following the announcement from the JCVI, health minister Caroline Flint said she was "delighted to announce that we intend, in principle, to introduce an HPV vaccine into the national immunisation programme".

But there were conditions, a Department of Health statement added. The programme would have to undergo an "independent peer review of the cost-benefit analysis", and funding for it would be "considered in the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review".

The vaccine costs more than all the immunisations each child receives put together, said Dr David Elliman, a consultant In Community Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children.

Hopefully the government will indeed do an "independent peer review of the cost-benefit analysis", since this is an extremely expensive vaccine. According to the article, 70% x 1120 = 784 women will be "saved" each year in the long run, if the vaccine is 100% effective (and apparently if it is given before girls are sexually active, it is pretty effective). (And if the 70% also applies to deaths from cervical cancer and not just occurrence.) If you assume 400000 girls are immunised per year, then the cost is 100 million pounds. So that is over 100000 pounds per life "saved" (and "saved" far off into the future, so the discounted cash calculation is much worse). Of course no life is ever saved, it is just extended, since we all have to die of something. If at great expense you extend a life from 70 to 80, it is hardly a great victory for the world. If you extend it from 30 to 70 (in a state of good health) then it is a different matter. The article also completely ignores the question of whether girls will be forced to be immunised whether they (and their parents) want it or not. This looks suspiciously like a bunch of control freak doctors have decided once again that they know best and that they will force their views on everyone else. Further, all drugs have side effects and some girls will be harmed by this drug. This also needs to be quantified, and set against the benefit of the drug, and honestly explained to girls and their parents, not covered up.

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