‘Can the cervical cancer vaccine cause cervical cancer instead? The info has been around round various Indonesian WhatApp groups lately, but I don’t know how to fact check.‘.
Given how you framed your question, first a small digression seems necessary. Responding with skepticism to information circulating on local social media shows good judgment IMO. Following up by asking a question on a Q&A forum like Quora is even better.
Social media are excellent tools for personal communication (‘I got home safely’, ‘Looks like my flight is delayed so I’m waiting in front of the boarding gate’) but extremely poor at information sharing. This is because many using them to share information tend to be ill-informed themselves, poorly educated about how to discern rumor from fact and untrustworthy from trustworthy news sources as well as all too glib and careless about what they share.
Scientific and medical information from original, scientifically peer-reviewed sources or from a credentialed entity such as a government agency authorized to do so are more reliable.
No, the cervical cancer vaccines can’t cause cervical cancer. Currently (as of Jan 2018),
- Approved cervical cancer vaccines ( ) are , made by Merck ( ), and , made by GlaxoSmithKline ( ).
- Essentially a mixture of proteins, they contain no live organism so they’re non-infectious and thus can’t induce a chronic infection, which research suggests is necessary for cervical cancer.
At present epidemiology suggests not all but ~90% of cervical cancer is caused by HPV (). Specifically, by now numerous epidemiological studies the world over have clearly linked chronic infection with specific types of HPV to cervical cancer ( , , , , , , ). HPV is a nonenveloped, double-stranded DNA virus. Thus, the currently approved cervical cancer vaccines target HPV.
The US ACIP () provides detailed information (background, recommendations, safety, efficacy and adverse effects) on the cervical cancer HPV vaccines (see below from ). Key detail to note? The vaccines are composed of envelope proteins from different types of HPV, not the whole virus itself. The cervical cancer HPV vaccines are thus non-infectious and can’t themselves cause either a chronic infection in the short-term nor cervical cancer in the long-term.
An abundance of data thus far from epidemiological follow-up studies in vaccinated populations also suggest these vaccines are both safe and effective. Since the first HPV vaccine was approved in 2006, a steady stream of scientific studies from various countries have confirmed their safety and efficacy, specifically, lower rates of HPV spread in the form of lower rates of genital warts, and lower rates of cervical tissue abnormalities (, , , , 15, 16, 17).
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