Bid to quell cancer shot fears

Doctors assured women and girls yesterday that a new vaccine against cervical cancer is safe, after fears were raised following reports in the USA that the shot caused negative side effects. Doctors from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and other experts said that there was no need to worry about the Gardasil vaccine, which became available in Greece last month. During the press conference, the doctors said that some 2.5 million jabs have been administered and only 430 cases of mild side effects have been reported. Three women, however, have suffered paralysis. «Today, it is certain that the vaccine is safe and is effective for five years,» said Patrick Poirot, vice president of medical and scientific affairs at Sanofi Pasteur MSD, which is responsible for selling Gardasil in Europe. «There are no indications about any future side effects. We are doing our planning and if something to do with the safety of the vaccine is discovered, we will be ready to confront it.» However, reports this month in the USA – where legislation has been passed to make the shot mandatory for schoolgirls – indicate that negative side effects have been reported in 20 states. Losses of consciousness and seizures have been among the side effects reported. The Greek government said earlier this month that the vaccine will be administered for free to some 160,000 12- and 13-year-old girls. The vaccine, which consists of three shots, works against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes changes in cells that lead to cancer. Doctors in Thessaloniki said yesterday that the disease kills some 250 women in Greece each year. About 274,000 women die of cervical cancer worldwide every year.