The news of a 14-year-old British girl's sudden death just hours after receiving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has caused concern across the world.
Concerns over the safety of the HPV vaccine are valid, but let's put them into perspective and take a few things into account.
Health officials now say that her death was due to a tumour involving her heart and lungs, and not due to the HPV vaccine. The vaccine she received was Cervarix® (a product of GlaxoSmithKline), which is a vaccine that protects against two types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. While this vaccine is currently available in almost 100 countries worldwide, Canada is not one of them.
The only HPV vaccine approved for use in Canada is Gardasil®, which is a product of Merck Frosst. Gardasil® protects against four types of HPV (two that can cause cervical cancer and two that can cause genital warts). Health Canada approved this HPV vaccine for use in Canada after conducting thorough scientific reviews and testing for its quality, safety, and effectiveness.
Immunization programs were implemented in countries around the world because the HPV vaccine helps save lives. The vaccine is given to reduce the risk of women developing cervical cancer and other diseases related to HPV infection. Cervical cancer affects approximately 1 million women and has caused more than 250,000 deaths worldwide. Millions of girls and young women have been vaccinated, and no safety concerns have been raised elsewhere. There are no plans to stop any HPV vaccination programs.
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