HPV in Acre: Misinformation causes rejection of vaccine by youngsters

Ministry of Health and University of São Paulo presented HPV vaccine evaluation


The HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, is the 4th leading cause of death by cancer among women. In Acre, cervical cancer leads causes of death among women

With reports ranging from headaches to cardiac arrest, groups and Facebook pages bring together stories of about 70 Acre-based teenagers who consider themselves victims of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. Testimonial publications often feature photos and videos showing episodes of seizures, fainting, and hospitalizations. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and a number of scientific studies, the vaccine is extremely safe.

Given this scenario that caused controversy regarding the effects attributed to the vaccine, the Ministry of Health presented, on November 28 to the State Government of Acre, the State Department of Health and the Public Prosecution Service the results of the research carried out by the University of Sao Paulo (USP). Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). The study was conducted by researchers José Gallucci Neto, director of the IPQ-USP Video encephalography Unit, and Renato Luiz Marchetti, of the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of São Paulo. The results reinforced the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine.

By videoconference, USP psychiatrist and researcher Renato Luiz Marcheti stated that there is no biological cause linked to the vaccine and that the patients presented what they call a psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, known by the acronym PNES, a kind of crisis of psychological origin very similar to an epileptic seizure, but not associated with electrical discharges from epilepsy.

Fear of vaccine may have been a trigger for PNES

Scientists noted that fear of the vaccine may have been a trigger for the development of PNES. The USP report presents a number of suggestions that include training an Acre-trained team for the treatment of psychogenic crisis and a communication campaign to combat peoples misinformation about the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.

According to the study, it was evident that both patients and their families are greatly influenced by the information available on social networks and major media. Antivaccine beliefs are propagated intensely through hundreds of weekly messages, which demands from the Ministry of Health technological and content strategies that can counteract the harmful effects of these influences.

Still according to the document, when presenting the symptoms, the young people would have suffered from the hostility of health professionals, who doubted what they felt and characterized them as patients who have nothing, who could get up and go home.

In one excerpt from the study, USPs medical team mentions the importance of providing insight into the effects of the HPV vaccine through the media and social networks.

Read the report “USP Report Cites Misinformation Between Causes of Anti-HPV Vaccine Rejection in Acre.

Gallucci and Marchetti fear that, as in Colombia, the outbreak of psychogenic disease may reduce adherence to the HPV vaccine. Vaccination is one of the cornerstones of the WHO strategy to eradicate cervical cancer, the most common cause of which is HPV virus infection. Although curable, this cancer killed 311 thousand women worldwide in 2018. According to data presented by Ana Goretti Kalume Maranhão, advisor to the General Coordination of the National Immunization Program of the Ministry of Health, the prevalence of new cases in Acre is higher than in the rest of the country. In the state, cervical cancer leads the causes of death among women.

Read the article “Acre lives outbreak of disease caused by fear of vaccination.

The director of the Department of Immunization and Communicable Diseases of the Health Surveillance Secretariat of the Ministry of Health, Julio Croda, explained how doctors came to the diagnosis. “We gathered a group of psychiatrists from the USP Institute of Psychiatry, an international reference for the subject, and initially evaluated 12 children to know the diagnosis. Of these, 10 were diagnosed with PNES. Two had epileptic seizures of genetic origin”, he said. The representative of the Ministry of Health also said that the federal government is available to train state and municipal health teams to seek diagnosis and help with treatment. “We have established the diagnosis for all these families. It is worth clarifying that the fact was not specifically because of the vaccine. It is safe and can be given to children and adolescents and we need to stimulate vaccination in the state, as we have a significant drop in vaccine coverage in Acre”, said Croda.

The Acre government has said it will follow all recommended protocols. And that the legal counsel of the Ministry of Health will call on the Regional Medical Councils to impose sanctions against health professionals who will disseminate untrue information about immunization.

Joint Statement SBIm / SBP / SBI / Febrasgo / SBMT / ABPTGIC: HPV Vaccines

In response to the spread of false information about HPV vaccines, document prepared by the Brazilian Societies of Immunization (SBIm), Pediatrics (SBP), Infectious Diseases (SBI), Tropical Medicine (SBMT), the Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Associations (Febrasgo) and the Brazilian Association of Lower Genital Tract Pathology and Colposcopy (ABPTGIC) gathers data that certify the safety, efficacy and importance of the immunobiological.

Find the full document here.

About the HPV

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a virus that infects skin or mucous membranes (oral, genital or anal) of both men and women, causing anogenital warts (genital region and anus) and cancer, depending on the type of the virus. HPV infection is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

HPV is primarily responsible for cervical cancer, a disease that is quietly developing and represents the fourth leading cause of death by cancer in women in Brazil. The quadrivalent vaccine is freely given by the Unified Health System (SUS) in girls aging from 9 to 14 years-old and boys aging from 11 to 14 years-old and protects against four subtypes of the virus (6, 11, 16 and 18), two of which cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases.

HPV infection has no symptoms in most people. In some cases, HPV may be dormant for months to years without showing signs (visible to the naked eye) or subclinical manifestations (not visible to the naked eye).

Decreased resistance in the body can trigger HPV multiplication and consequently cause lesions to appear. Most infections in women (especially adolescents) are spontaneously resolved by the body itself in approximately up to 24 months.

The first manifestations of HPV infection appear between approximately within 2 to 8 months, but it may take up to 20 years for any signs of the infection to appear. Manifestations are usually more common in pregnant women and people with low immunity.

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