Health Ministry officials are considering canceling plans to administer the HPV vaccine to 52,000 eighth-grade girls, following studies suggesting vaccine-linked autoimmune conditions and other adverse effects. Officials are expected to discuss the issue in the next few days.
Health Ministry deputy director Boaz Lev has arranged a phone conference including doctors supporting and opposing the inclusion of the vaccine in the national immunization plan. In view of the opposition to the vaccine, the Health Ministry decided to hold further consultations in the upcoming days before deciding to administer the vaccine or add further specific directives.
The HPV vaccine will likely not be administered until next month at the earliest in any case, particularly since nurses have been so busy administering the oral polio vaccine.
A study published in July in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology by a group of experts from Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, and Sapienza University of Rome described three patients who had adverse effects after being administered a vaccine against the human papilloma virus aimed at preventing infection with species of the virus associated with the development of cervical cancer.
Though there was no evidence of damage to their reproductive system, all three stopped getting their periods, and hormonal treatment did not help. Two of the girls also developed an anomalous immunological reaction. Several other adverse effects were recorded, including nausea, headaches, insomnia and a variety of psychiatric and cognitive symptoms. The study pointed at an aluminum-containing adjuvant added to the vaccine as a possible source of the effects.
“We documented here the evidence of the potential of the HPV vaccine to trigger a life-disabling autoimmune condition,” the study found. “The increasing number of similar reports of post HPV vaccine-linked autoimmunity and the uncertainty of long-term clinical benefits of HPV vaccination are a matter of public health that warrants further rigorous inquiry.”
Another study, published recently in the journal Clinical Rheumatology by researchers from Italy’s University of Padua, with the cooperation of Israeli experts, followed six women with a history of rheumatic diseases who received an HPV vaccine. The study identified a connection between the vaccine and anomalous reactions in the immunological system, including attacks of lupus.
Dr. Efraim Siegler, president of the Israeli Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, supports administering the HPV vaccine.
"The new reports describe specific cases, but there are huge studies that focused on the possible link between immunological diseases and cervical cancer, and found no such link," he said.
HPV vaccines are administered in three stages that must be completed within six months.
The rate of cervical cancer in Israel is relatively low, in comparison to other Western countries, but the mortality rate is very high. Five of every 100,000 Israeli women develop cervical cancer, 46 percent of whom die of the disease.
A 2009 Gertner Institute study found that among Jewish women, those of Sephardi origin, especially those born in North Africa, are most likely to suffer from the disease.