Thursday, March 25, 2010

Peddling Women’s Vaccines, Lies and Death in India.

This is a guest post by Jaded 16

Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog ‘Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

image Out in the West, India is peddled to unsuspecting and slightly simple - minded tourists as the country of Slumdog Millionaire, mass girl fetus murders, the biggest slum dwelling in Asia and now to add to our list we’ve got using innocent girls as lab rats to test a vaccine. Not that any of these claims are untrue; just that the tourism departments of the world over need a good kick you-know-where for being so creative.

The Government hosted a health awareness drive in alliance with PATH last July in the three remote districts of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The goal was to vaccinate 14,000 girls against cervical cancer. What is interesting about the choice of these districts is most of them are either rural or tribal areas (except one zone Thirumalayapalem which is an urban zone) where the target masses are often illiterate and poor. Another point to mention that a similar campaign is on in Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. The vaccine Gardasil, the commercially licensed HPV vaccine produced by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) was given in the selected zones only whereas it was marketed all over the country.

1) The American Chronicle on February 27, 2010 wrote, “Reports are coming in on a daily basis of young girls and women affected by adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine”.

2) The Guardian on September 29, 2009 wrote, “An investigation has been launched after a 14-year-old girl died upon receiving a cervical cancer vaccination” and lastly ;

3) The Lancet reports on February 2010, “We will not know for many more years whether HPV vaccination will prevent cancer or, in the worst case, do harm. In fact The Lancet went as far as to suggest that developing countries should allocate their allotted resources to cervical screening rather than HPV vaccination, until it’s proven that HPV vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer. It seems like NO ONE in India read these articles. Or if they did, they decided to administer these vaccinations anyway.

These vaccines have numerous side-effects including epileptic fits, blood disorders, arthritis, neurological disorders and seizures. In more than two reported cases, this vaccine was fatal; however these deaths were finalized as “suicides” by doctors and the postmortems alike. Their evidence: the epileptic fits which were a result of the vaccine is now used as an indicator of insanity thus clearing the Government or PATH of any blame. This issue was brought to the forefront by TEHELKA’s brave journalism.

Upon questioning the motive behind introducing an expensive vaccine like Gardasil in India, the PATH representatives have been cited saying, “The study is conducted to generate critical data and experience for evidence-based decision-making about public sector immunization programmes as part of a broader cancer-of-the cervix prevention and control strategy. Similar studies are being conducted in Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. This is to simply keep India prepared for the day when these vaccines become affordable.

There have been reports that state around 120 students developed complications after the vaccination — ranging from epileptic fits, allergies, diarrhea, dizziness and nausea. Dr. Shekhar associated with the Nallipaka PHC, who had a target of 2,400 children but could manage only 1,800 till February 27, adds: “Many developed complications, but we don’t know if they turned serious since we aren’t in touch with the girls.”

Somehow no one paused to ask if there were any side-effects to these drugs? Was the full consent of these minor girls and their parents taken? Were they informed choices? Or this drug was taken under the assumption that “The Government knows best”? After all no Government would want to expose its population to a drug which was faced much music in many countries, would it?

I am so angry to see how the Government could just use the lives of countless girls to experiment on and to test a drug! PETA and other animal rights organizations disapprove of such trials on animals and here our Government has sanctioned to use girls –PEOPLE - as laboratory animals?! Is it because as girls and women, we have no agency over our bodies or the culture and by extension sees us as “disposable”, “usable” commodities? Another problem lies in the fact that most of these zones are some of the country’s most poor and illiterate places. The drug administers hand-in-glove with the Government has doubly, hell, fool proofed their agenda. There is absolutely no way in which these people could retaliate. I can imagine similar situations in Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. The drug was pulled out of the UK, USA and Australia once the media started raising reasonable doubts in the minds of the people. India however has nothing more radical then just ban the ad campaign under the grounds of “fomenting fear” while continuing to use girls as their personal experiment.

This is the country that has a Female President and whose legislation that is undergoing drastic changes in the Women’s Reservation Bill at the moment, but, prefers to keep such matters under wraps. I wonder if the Government would have allowed encouraged such an experiment had the lives of Indian men and boys had been at stake. My name is Jaded16 for a reason.

For further information on this vaccine and its consequences read TEHELKA’s article.