Quebec conducts HPV vax experiement to save money
... Laissez Les Mals Temps Rouler
Note: This article discusses a change in Quebec, Canada which will substitute the GlaxoSmithKline HPV vax in place of the Merck vax in an effort to save money for the province. I can't help but wonder if a GSK Rep got to a Quebecois politician to convince him or her that the money savings was wise. In fact, it's a money loser for Merck and a win for GSK. I won't even combine Eveready and Duracell batteries in a toy - here we have students being experimented upon with two separate brands and formulations of a vaccine that is meant to be given in multiple doses. HPV vaccination will topple the myth of vaccine safety - croyez nous. And bonne chance to these poor students.
Students in Quebec are the first in Canada to be vaccinated in a program that uses two different vaccines to protect against the human papillomavirus, a change that has divided experts.
Under the new program, which started this fall, students receive one shot of Gardasil 9, which protects against nine strains of HPV, including 16 and 18, the two that cause the majority of cervical, anal and other HPV-related cancers. Early next year, students will receive a shot of Cervarix, which protects against HPV 16 and 18 only.
The new schedule is expected to save the Quebec government $3-million a year.
Several experts and organizations call the change a risky experiment that puts savings over health. None of the experts dispute the safety of Cervarix. The concern is that students who do not get two doses of Gardasil 9 will not build sufficient immunity to seven of the nine strains. Cervarix, produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), costs about $110 per dose, while Gardasil 9, made by Merck, costs about $190.
“[The change] took a lot of us by surprise,” said Nancy Durand, a gynecologist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “It’s a living experiment."
But members of Quebec’s immunization committee say clinical evidence shows the amended vaccine program will protect young people. Committee member Vladimir Gilca says much of the backlash originates from Merck, which stands to lose if provinces reduce use of its vaccine. School-based HPV vaccination programs in every other province use two doses of Gardasil 9.
“It’s nothing new to change a vaccination program. The most of these changes pass without a lot of attention,” said Dr. Gilca, a scientific adviser for the National Public Health Institute of Quebec.
Some of the opposition is because Cervarix has been approved for use only in girls and women in Canada. That does not mean it is unsafe for boys, but it is unusual for policy-makers to use vaccines in this off-label way, said Marc Steben, who works in the unit for sexually transmitted infections of the National Public Health Institute of Quebec.
Some experts fear one dose of Gardasil 9 could leave students vulnerable to genital warts and other less common forms of cancer not covered by Cervarix.
“This is based on pretty skimpy evidence, particularly in terms of long-term outcomes,” said Zeev Rosberger, a psychologist who studies HPV prevention and is on the board of advocacy group HPV Awareness. Read more at The Globe and Mail.