Monday, April 12, 2010

Know the nature of our welfare state

Centre has told the state governments of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh to suspend their ongoing trials with Gardasil, an HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine made by Merck Ltd, being carried out among poor children in the two states. This research was being done by PATH, a US-based NGO and was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is because of the protests from women’s organizations and health rights groups that this action has been taken. However, the Government has to ensure the well being of the children already covered under the programme.

 This move has been made too late, as at least in Andhra Pradesh, all vials have already been administered. In fact, when it was brought up the matter of the death of the first girl before the concerned authorities, it simply fell on deaf ears. This is in direct contrast to experiences in other countries, where entire batches of the vaccine were withdrawn from circulation when deaths and hospitalization were reported following vaccination. It should be pointed here out that there may be problems with specific batches of the vaccine as, according to press reports, Merck has been issued warning by the Food and Drugs Administration in the US, for not observing good manufacturing practices.

Also, the agencies involved in conducting the clinical study have been found actively falsifying the benefits of the vaccine, as well as minimizing all the problems associated with it. These are in addition to the issue of protocol violations.

The written material used by PATH categorically states that there are no side-effects of the vaccine other than irritation at the injection site and fever and that it has been safely administered to millions of girls without complaints in developed countries.