Forbes' Gardasil Story Sheds Light on Why Florida's Well-Meaning HPV Legislation Failed
Florida lawmakers tackled lots of pressing issues this past legislative sessions. They debated whether the barking tree frog should be the Sunshine State's official amphibian. They clashed over making it a crime to pick up pecans that have fallen from privately owned trees. The even considered making trees painted purple a symbol for no trespassing.
The original intent of the bill, as previously discussed on this blog, was to add the human papillomavirus vaccine to Florida's list of recommended vaccines for school-aged children.
"If you look at both sides of the political spectrum I'm amazed and appalled by the lack of knowledge that's being put forward as knowledge," says Robert Ruffolo, former head of research at Wyeth. "They're not scientists, they're not physicians, and many politicians will say almost anything during election season." Nothing underscores that point more than what has happened to Gardasil, a vaccine with an exceptional safety record and effectiveness rate that nonetheless reaches a fraction of those who need it, endangering hundreds of thousands of lives in both the developed and developing world.
Yet the data indicate Gardasil is actually an exceptional drug, extremely safe and extremely effective. In clinical trials of 30,000 people, potential side effects ranging from fever to death occurred at the same rate whether patients were given a saline solution placebo or Gardasil. Deaths occurred in only 0.1% of people in either group. Since the vaccine was approved, it has been given to at least 10 million people, mostly teenage girls. The FDA and the CDC have received reports of 71 deaths of people who got the vaccine and, on examining them, found no pattern.
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