The jab that can stop cancer – Dispatches

July 22, 2008

The thought of any family member dying of cancer is always emotive, and all the more so if you think you might have been able to do something to prevent the disease from wreaking havoc. In the Channel 4 current affairs series Dispatches, journalist Jane Moore considered the forthcoming campaign to treat all 12 year old girls in the UK with a vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer.

This sounds on the face of it like an excellent idea and Moore is not an immunisation skeptic, indeed she paid privately for her older daughter to have the jab, and fully expects her younger daughter to have the injection in the fullness of time. She does, however, raise a number of interesting arguments that show that the decisions about whether or not the UK should be entering into such a full-scale vaccination programme is rather more complicated. The main issues are: (1) is the vaccine safe?; (2) is the vaccine effective?; (3) will the vaccine offer false security?; (4) will it lead to greater promiscuity?; and (5) does this represent good use of NHS resources? Let’s take each of these in turn. Read the rest of this entry »