I recently attended a meeting addressed by an oncologist to clear the doubts regarding the HPV vaccine .The audience was a mixed groups of gynaecologists ,paediatricians,nurses and NGOs .Some points that were discussed and clarified were ,
1.The death of the four girls in the now infamous PATH vaccine trial (that was conducted in Gujarat and Khammam ,AP and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) were in no way related to the vaccine .Two deaths were due to drowning and two due to other causes .
2.The trial was trying to test whether the vaccine could be given to even the most backward rural areas (in this case a tribal region ),a so called "feasibility study".The outcome of which could affect public health initiatives .This could enable inclusion of the vaccine in the Universal Immunisation programme with wide ranging benefits.
3.Safety trials have been successfully concluded and the vaccine is USFDA approved and in wide use ( even in men in some parts of the world).
4.The press which raised a rightful hue and cry over the deaths has been underplaying the investigation report and the clarifications of the health ministry and the ICMR in this regard.
5.Even among doctors ,the reports have led to confusions over administering the vaccine and a few doctors said that they had indeed stopped vaccinating their patients and were not aware of the clarifications that have been issued .
6.Also ,most importantly ,the vaccine can succeed only when combined with strong screening programmes which unfortunately is severely deficient even among the urban ,literate population .
Time to take the call ...