The Georgia General Assembly is considering a measure that would require all girls to take a new vaccine that prevents human papilloma virus (HPV) infections.
Certain strains of HPV are associated with the development of cervical cancers. This vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year and appears to offer a real advancement in the prevention of disease.
However, I am concerned with the rush to make this a mandatory vaccination. Although the drug appears beneficial, I have concerns that it may have unintended side effects that were not detected in the small number of women in the initial clinical trials, or may have problems that may arise over the long haul.
These concerns are common to every drug that the FDA approves. In fact, the FDA requires manufacturers to perform post-marketing surveillance on all newly approved drugs and vaccines. There have been several unintended problems with vaccines in the past. A recent example includes vaccines against rotavirus that have been linked with a potentially life-threatening twisting of the intestines.
I think that a much more rational approach to public policy here would be for public health authorities to encourage its use in the short term, but withhold making it a mandatory vaccination until we have a few years' worth of post-marketing surveillance data to assess.
Greene Shepherd, Pharm.D., Martinez