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Vaccine scaremongering by conservative Christians

I WISH to respond to the series of utterly scandalous letters which you have published recently in respect of the cervical cancer vaccination, all of which have emanated from people with links to various conservative Christian organisations (Kathy Sinnott, Nora Bennis, Fr Eamon McCarthy, et al).

These letters have alleged variously that the cervical vaccine does not prevent cervical cancer; that it causes side-effects, including other forms of cancer; that it has not been adequately tested and that chastity is the best form of protection against the HPV virus which causes cervical cancer.

All of these claims are absolutely false. The facts are that the vaccination has been tested in large clinical studies in 33 countries, including more than 25,000 subjects, over the past decade.

The US National Cancer Institute has found the vaccine to be virtually 100% effective in preventing the development of cancerous cells. One of your letter-writers claimed the vaccine had caused “thousands of adverse side-effects, including paralysis” and “blindness” (September 8). Did you seek a source for this bizarre claim before publishing it?

In clinical studies, the most frequently reported side-effects were local redness and swelling at the point of injection and mild fever, much the same as with any other vaccination. The US Department of Health also found the vaccine has a near flawless safety record, with only 0.004% of all doses resulting in serious illness. Statistically, this literally means that a girl has a greater chance of being hit by an asteroid than by falling seriously ill as a result of this vaccine.

The claim that chastity is effective as a weapon against the HPV virus is particularly worthy of contempt, since the strains of the virus which cause cervical cancer can be passed by skin contact. Virtually all available medical research has given the vaccination a clean bill of health. Its discovery was such a profound breakthrough in the fight against cancer that the scientist who developed it was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in 2008. And yet, you have allowed letter-writers to denounce the vaccination on the basis of little more than rumour, scare stories and voodoo quackery, most of which emanates from far-right Christian websites in the US.

Have you consulted any medical professionals to conduct a basic fact-check on the claims you have allowed to be spread on your letters page? If not, then it is an absolute dereliction of your duty to your readers to leave such scaremongering to go unchallenged. The cervical cancer vaccination is safe, used throughout the world and could save many of the 80 lives lost annually to the disease.

Barry Walsh

Clontarf

Dublin 3


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