The New York Times reported on February 17, 2007 that even some who support use of Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil question the rush in state legislatures to make inoculation with this expensive and new vaccine mandatory. Over twenty states have legislation pending. Last fall, legislation was defeated in Michigan's legislature. Gardasil is very expensive at about $350-400 for the three-shot course.
"The decision to make [the vaccine] mandatory this early has created a significant controversy over things that have nothing to do with the vaccine," said Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini, chairman of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Questions are raised about the safety of the vaccine. Questions are also raised about Merck's contributions to Women in Government, a national association of state legislators. This group is a moving force promoting legislation around the country to approve mandatory vaccination in an effort to eradicate the virus that causes cervical cancer. Women in Government has posted model mandatory vaccination legislation on its Web site, www.womeningovernment.org
According to the New York Times, the drug maker GlaxoSmithKline is also developing a vaccine that, like Gardasil, is intended to inoculate against the human papilloma virus, or H.P.V., which is known to be the cause of cervical cancer. Some analysts have predicted that the market for H.P.V. vaccines is potentially $5 billion a year market. Is Merck's push for legislation, then, intended to corner the market before Glaxo can get its product approved?
Dr. Bocchini of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the New York Times that too emphasis was being placed on vaccination of 11- and 12-year-olds. He said that legislatures should be focusing on trying to obtain funding to vaccinate girls and women in the 13-to-26 age group, because they are not covered by the federal vaccine programs aimed at children and because most of them will not be able to afford the $400 vaccine.
And is it about the money? The American Academy of Pediatrics is not advocating mandatory Gardasil vaccination. Cost is a factor in pediatricians’ opposition. Why? To buying enough Gardasil vaccine to inoculate 100 girls would require an advance payment of nearly $40,000. Not only do many pediatric practices not have the money to make this kind of investment, but also many doctors complain that the insurance reimbursement for giving the vaccine are too low that they aren’t sufficiently compensated for giving the vaccine.
See the New York Times, Furor on Rush to Require Cervical Cancer Vaccine, Last accessed February 17, 2007