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Katie Couric looks at the HPV vaccine Gardasil

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Katie Couric used her talk show "Katie" on Dec. 4 to wade into the controversy over vaccinating against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Two vaccines are approved with Gardasil being the primary one used in the U.S. The immunization is intended to prevent infections and cancers caused by by four types of HPV, types 6, 11, 16, and 18.

As described in an article on Forbes, Couric interviewed a mother who claims that the Gardisil vaccine killed her daughter. She also interviewed a young woman who claimed to have developed years of illness following her injection. As subject matter experts, she interviewed Dr. Diane Harper, the chair of family and geriatric medicine at the University of Louisville, and the show's medical consultant, Dr. Mallika Marshall.

Dr Harper is often quoted, or misquoted by opponents of HPV immunizations. At the time that Gardasil was developed, she was involved in the development and testing process for two trials of Gardasil. Her bio states that her duties involved "Participated in writing of protocol; and selection of sites; functioned as site PI" (principal investigator).

Dr. Harper contends that Gardasil has been over promoted by its manufacturer. She told interviewer Ben Goldacre that "Merck was egregiously overmarketing Gardasil in the US." “I fully support the HPV vaccines,” she says. “I believe that in general they are safe in most women."

The Centers for Disease Control believe that millions of Americans are infected by HPV. It "is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. More than half of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives." The Gardasil formula is intended to prevent most cases of cervical cancer in women. It can also prevent other cancers, including oral and throat cancers caused by HPV, and genital warts. A Merck representative told ABC News on Nov. 8 that the company had distributed over 125 million doses of the vaccine worldwide.

The CDC reported on the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in June 2013. Researchers found that HPV infections due to the strains in Gardasil have declined 56 percent since 2006, in teen girls. The vaccine is given in a series of three injections over a six month period. The recommended ages for the immunization for both boys and girls is 11 to 12, the "tween" years.

...each year in the United States, about 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women, and cervical cancer is the most common. About 8,000 cancers caused by HPV occur each year in men in the United States, and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers are the most common.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) provides data on the number of claims of injury or death from a vaccine as self-reported. As of Nov. 4, 2013, HPV vaccines had received a total of 204 claims of injury and 11 death claims. Many of those claims remain under investigation, with 62 having been settled and another 62 having been dismissed. Since 2006, 55.2 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States. In 2010, the CDC reports that 3,939 women died of cervical cancer.



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