Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine policy and evidence-based medicine: are they at odds?


All drugs are associated with some risks of adverse reactions. Because vaccines represent a special category of drugs, generally given to healthy individuals, uncertain benefits mean that only a small level of risk for adverse reactions is acceptable. Furthermore, medical ethics demand that vaccination should be carried out with the participant's full and informed consent. This necessitates an objective disclosure of the known or foreseeable vaccination benefits and risks. The way in which HPV vaccines are often promoted to women indicates that such disclosure is not always given from the basis of the best available knowledge. For example, while the world's leading medical authorities state that HPV vaccines are an important cervical cancer prevention tool, clinical trials show no evidence that HPV vaccination can protect against cervical cancer. Similarly, contrary to claims that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, existing data show that this only applies to developing countries. In the Western world cervical cancer is a rare disease with mortality rates that are several times lower than the rate of reported serious adverse reactions (including deaths) from HPV vaccination. Future vaccination policies should adhere more rigorously to evidence-based medicine and ethical guidelines for informed consent.


  • Publisher Full Text
  • Authors

    Tomljenovic L

    Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, 828 W. 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 1L8, Canada. lucijat77@gmail.com

    Shaw CA


    Annals of medicine 45:2 2013 Mar pg 182-93


    Developing Countries
    Evidence-Based Medicine
    Papillomavirus Infections
    Papillomavirus Vaccines
    Practice Guidelines as Topic
    Uterine Cervical Neoplasms

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't



    PubMed ID