On April 21st, 2009, Nick Batik posted this comment in response to a New Zealand-based Blog that advocated the use of Gardasil noting that “…there are considerable benefits to the vaccine and that there seem to be no significant drawback.”
I thought Nick’s response warranted reposting here. In the spirit of full disclosure, Nick Batik is my husband and partner in Pleiades Publishing Services and the designer of the Iconic Woman and Holy Hormone sites.
Gardasil, By The Numbers
I view the question of Gardasil more from and economic prospective:
US 2000 Census places girls age 10-14 at 6.9% of the total female population of 151,627,727.
That would be 10,462,313 girls.
Gardasil is currently on the market for $120 per single dose. Three doses are required over a 6-month period, making the total cost for the HPV vaccine $360. On top of that, some doctors are charging office visit fees when the vaccine is given.
That would be a total expenditure of $3,766,432,680 not including office visits. In your article you state that 11,070 cases of cervical cancer were reported in the US. Assuming that 100% of those could be prevented by Gardasil (which it cannot – it only affect 4 of the 72 variations) that would be a cost per case of $340,238.
If you look at the 11,070 reported cases, 3,870 resulted in death. If you measure the cost of Gardasil based on the lives saved (again assuming 100% save rate), that would be $973,238 spent per life. It should be noted that 7,200 (65%) did not die, and that had nothing to do with Gardasil.
Recent congressional reports indicate that an increasing number of cancer related deaths are due to “lack of access” to health care, as opposed to the failures of current treatments. The relatively high cost of the vaccine is just as much a barrier to the poor and uninsured – those most at risk.
The World Health Organization states that there are a number of low-cost, highly effective diagnostic screening options (e.g. PAP test – avg. $27 USD*) and that cervical cancer is one of the most treatable (with access to health care).
*NOTE: Using PAP Test Recommended guidelines for most women from:
- If you are younger than 30 years old, you should get a Pap test every year.
- If you are age 30 or older and have had 3 normal Pap tests for 3 years in a row, talk to your doctor about spacing out Pap tests to every 2 or 3 years.
- If you are ages 65 to 70 and have had at least 3 normal Pap tests and no abnormal Pap tests in the last 10 years, ask your doctor if you can stop having Pap tests.
It would be a reasonable expectation for a woman to have 25 PAP test throughout her lifetime. At $27 USD per test, a woman would invest $675 USD for a life time cervical cancer prevention plan.
Lets be real clear here — even with the Gardasil HPV vaccine the current medical direction is to continued with your regular PAP test schedule. So why risk the possible side effects of the vaccine?
One great unanswered question: increasing outbreaks of diseases though to be eradicated or under control has shown that the efficacy of inoculations given to school age children diminishes over time. Since cervical cancer does not manifest in most women until after age 40, will the Gardasil treatment still be effective, or will it need to administered again?
Considering the number of high-death rate diseases, is this REALLY the best use of our limited health care resources?