Gardasil: More harm than good?

You decide.

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  1. That’s scary stuff. I admit it does sound tempting to require a vaccine that promises protection from cervical cancer. I mean, who wouldn’t want to guarantee themselves immune from at least one type of cancer, when there seems to be so many types one can get.

    But the thing is this. The vaccine doesn’t really prevent the CANCER, it prevents the virus, HPV, which can cause the cancer. Newsflash: HPV is an STD!

    If we as a society are so concerned about our daughters “catching” cervical cancer, how about we start with the basics. Like abstinence.

  2. Well said, Shana. And HPV isn’t the only cause of cervical cancer, so the vaccine isn’t even a true safeguard. And is anyone concerned that there have been no long-term clinical trials or tests done on this to show its effect on our daughters 20 years down the line?

    So where does that leave us? Perhaps teaching our kids about abstinence (gasp!) – the scandal!

  3. it’s not my daughters’ morality i’m worried about. one day she will marry, it’s that boys’ morality i’m worried about! i don’t really want my daughter to catch HPV on her wedding night! i’m old, and i’m jaded, and i’ve been around the block many times. i don’t want my child, or anyone else’s to die because of some kids stupidity.

  4. Abstinence – what a novel idea! Ideally, I would like my daughter(s) to save them selves for their husbands who have done the same. But really, for me it’s not about the cervical cancer or the HPV. They are real. Premarital sex does happen. Kids who come from good families make bad choices. And I want to protect my children . . . but I want to protect them in the way that we as a family choose – not some drug company, some politician, or even our doctor! WE should have a choice. For me, the notion that I could be told that I have to give my child this vaccine is hideous! That is the part of this vaccine that I think is most dangerous.

  5. Different Cathy here…
    If I were raped, or my daughter were raped, I would want this vaccine in my body! No question.

  6. I would like to say that HPV is NOT exclusively a sexually transmitted disease. And I think it’s quite ridiculous to tell people it is. ANYONE can get HPV even if they’ve been monogamous their entire lives. It’s not a matter of morality. It’s a matter of education. If you are against the vaccine, be against it for the right reasons, not because you think it’s a “slut’s” disease. I find this very offensive (your commentors Mary, not you). I got HPV right after my son was born. Two monogamous people in a faithful marriage. My doctor told me it was not exclusively an STD, that many women get it…even virgins. This vaccine is a way to help women and girls combat something that can cause cervical cancer..they are prescribing it for children as young as 9. Why would they give a vaccine to a child? Because they aren’t assuming the child is or will be promiscuous, but because it is a common virus many, many women and girls can get.

    Get your facts straight ladies before you start condemning women who have HPV or even those who get the vaccine. No one should be made to feel “filthy” for doing something that could save their lives.

    I’m sorry Mary, but your commentors are making blanket statements that are hurtful and ignorant sounding. I am hoping that you, as a nurse, can put the record straight so that maybe more feelings can be spared and women can start learning the whole FACTS, not partial facts.

  7. Sad to read of these side effects. In a perfect world we could just teach abstinence. I am saddened by the bed-hopping I hear of just the high school where I teach! My daughter is about to graduate college and said she was never told of this STD in school. When she decided to enter into her first “relationship” recently she contacted HPV from someone who was “tested” prior to their relationship. She says many college students have gotten this. She had planned to get this vaccine because she only had one form of HPV (there are supposed to be three). Now I have to warn her of this.
    For my other daughter: I took Meron in for her first physical and it was recommended she get this vaccine! I was floored and told the doctor “no thanks!”

  8. Liz in Australia says:

    I won’t be getting my 9yo daughter vaccinated, although it is now on the schedule in Australia. Not because of the morality issue, but because it worries me deeply that there have been no long term clinical trials and that this is, in effect, a giant experiment on this generation of girls.

    I have HPV myself, and have had abnormal Pap smears in the past (including having had pre-cancerous cells removed). Despite this, I would still rather educate my daughter about risks, responsible sexual hygiene and prevention than expose her to an untested vaccine like this one.

  9. Darla,
    Slight misinformation here…. There are actually 60+ forms of HPV. Of those, the most common are the two that cause genital warts and the two that cause genital warts *and* have a high instance of causing cervical cancer. (Perhaps a misleading statistic… any genital wart may develop into a cancerous lesion.)
    Also, at this time there is no reliable means of testing for HPV, so no one can know whether or not they are clear. Furthermore, the virus can linger for up to a year before symptoms appear, and up to two years after symptoms subside. The good news is that most of forms will clear up on their own, if you’re fortunate enough to avoid the cancer bit–but is it any wonder the disease is rampant on college campuses? No one told *me* about this in college!

  10. I apologize if this is a repost, but I don’t see my earlier comment.

    The article suggests that most of Gardasil’s side effects are common for any vaccination. Curious, I looked up flu shot side effects, and saw that flu shots are also occasionally linked to death and disabling. Shall we also condemn flu vaccination? No, certainly not; every is at risk for catching the flu, and it isn’t a lifestyle choice. Receiving a flu shot is a calculated risk. You bank on the small number of vaccine-related deaths so that you protect yourself from becoming one of the much larger percentage of flu-related deaths.

    HPV vaccination is also a calculated risk. As other ladies have mentioned above, HPV has no respect for lifestyle–and considering that over half the world’s adult population will contract it at some point in their lives (my doctor’s stats), it’s possibly more common than flu! I for example have never had the flu, but I have had HPV. I was lucky and it cleared up in time, but since two of the most common strains of HPV cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, I’m much more frightened of that.

    Also, in what imaginary world is sex always a consenting and informed decision? I have to agree with “different Cathy,” above… I shudder to imagine any daughter of mine in high school or college without some armor against irresponsible boys.

  11. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses. At this point I’m not giving this shot to my girls–but it is actually mostly because of my feelings about immunizations and their side effects. I have had serious reservations over the years about giving my kids immunizations and have done them only on a delayed schedule. And I have even more serious reservations about a drug company lobbying the govt to make an immunization mandatory. Too much self-interest there for me to trust my daughters’ health to them. If my daughters as young adults chose to take the shot, fine, that’s their decision. I hope in few years there will be a truer picture of the safety or lack of safety of it.

  12. Well said, Mary. Interesting article and discussion.

  13. Thanks everyone for your further posts…I always like to be better informed! Anyone know what the statistics are for children under 18 getting cancer from HPV? When I said “no thank you” to our family doctor to vaccinate Meron, I realize she will be able to make this decision for herself when she is an adult, but do I realistically need to worry she could get this before then?

    I’m with Mary on vaccinations in general: I too do not like to vaccinate, but have because of working in a school setting. The vaccinations I received before going to Ethiopia are suspected to have caused an unusual illness to flare up in me. There is not a definitive test to link vaccinations to serious side effects, so we will never be completely sure. And I even elected not to take the polio vaccine because the number one ingredient was formaldehyde. So much for being careful!

    FYI: our country health department told me the vaccinations children receive no longer have mercury in them, but the adult vaccines do!

  14. I’m a survivor of metastatic cervical cancer. Like some folks here have mentioned, I was no slut. I caught the virus from my fiance. It almost killed me.

    I think Mary has a very rational approach to this vaccine. Sure, I would love nothing more than to protect my daughter from the disease that nearly claimed my life and that DID permanently claim my fertility, but there needs to be A LOT of testing before I go giving my daughter Gardisil. What is the use of TRYING to protect her, but only hurting her?

    I am wary of the site referenced here as I am concerned with conservative propaganda. I am also wary of drug companies trying to make this vaccine mandatory (NO ONE will ever mandate that my daughter be injected with this vaccine). The drug companies obviously have their agenda as well. I don’t think ultra-conservative websites or the drug companies have our daughter’s best interests at heart…..they have an ideology and/or their purse that is more important. What I want to see is top notch scientific research. When a safe vaccine is available I want to see it made free not only for American women, but women around the world.

  15. I’ve been following this issue with great interest because I have a daughter who is nearly ten. I know this vaccine will be offered to her in a matter of time.

    My fears aren’t that it will send her “the wrong message.”

    My fears are very similar to Mary’s—-it hasn’t been around long enough to allow my daughter to be one of their guinea pigs. Look at the Rotashield vaccine that came out several years ago. It was promised to be the vaccine that would end Rotavirus.

    Rather than ending Rotavirus, it killed and injured children by causing intestinal blockages. It was pulled from the market.

    In the last several years many major medications have been pulled from the market due to adverse, unforeseen reactions. Pharmaceutical companies don’t have the best track record.

    My fear is what this vaccine could do to the cervix of a young girl, just entering puberty or as a young teenager. Who knows what the ramifications will be down the road?

    I haven’t crossed this vaccine off my list. I prefer to wait until a proven track record of safety has been established.

  16. Katrine says:

    I live in Texas where the governer tried to make it mandatory. I was not going to have my 12 year old daughter vaccinated because of the same reasons everyone has reservations over. I’m glad enough people protested to get the governer to back down.

  17. I feel we should do everything we can to guard our children from illness and disease. Disease does not have morality attached to it. We should teach our children morals, but ultimately as many have pointed out, we do not know what might happen in their lives. Modern science is an incredible gift. The human capacity for genius is God given, and if God has given us the gift of a human being capable of understanding how disease works and how to prevent disease, we must take advantage of that. I have seen first hand what happens when others are not immunized (whooping cough for example – please make sure that your teenagers are re-immunized for this dangerous illness – speak to your pediatrician), and it is a very very serious problem. The vaccines that we have available for our kids should be utilized by each one of us for our children. I can understand why people wish to see a longer track record of safety, but we know that there will always be people who do not believe in vaccination and unfortunately what they consider to be a personal decision is actually one which has far ranging and serious public health consequences.

  18. Ooooh. The links between big drug lobbies, the FDA and the government over the years…. Looking into it all will blow your mind and infuriate you to the point of speechlessness. Literally sickening. I can’t even go there any more in my mind.

    The previous commenter mentioned science being a gift. Yes, but not infalliable and free of bias. Science is a quest for truth. Science is not truth. Scientific ideas grow and change, get refined and sometimes, if enough necessary humility is present, they get thrown out completely. How many scientific facts of the past are now known to be utterly wrong? How many will be in the future? I believe people will someday shake their heads at the foolish ignorance and barbaric consequences of some of our best medical scientific “knowledge” today!

    Despite what it may seem here, I am not an anti-vaccination, conspiracy theorist! But I definitely believe that caution and evaluation of –instead of blind faith in– science are prudent and wise. This one is definitely a “wait and see.”

  19. Didn’t like my opinion, or is my post stuck in your spam filter for listing links?

  20. Ed– I woke up this morning with 600+ spams in my spam folder, and deleted it all without looking. Maybe yours got stuck there. Try again?

  21. There’s no thimerosol (mercury) in Gardasil.

    Mary, I took fewer chances — my response is posted at my blog, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2007/05/31/voting-for-cancer-against-prevention/

  22. Like many of the others who have posted, I am against making this vaccine mandatory, and feel that more studies need to be done before we promote this any further. What really bothers me though, is how come this responsibility is solely on the women? They are just now starting to test this on men, and I think it’s ridiculous that the doctors have only made this out to be an issue for women. Maybe if we could stop this at the source of the problem women wouldn’t be getting HPV to begin with!

  23. Recommendations are to give it to boys, too, now.

    Not exactly family friendly, but you can read it here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/what_it_takes_to_sway_the_reli.php

  24. Now that we know it prevents cancers of male organs, too, perhaps we should take a rational look at the real risks. Fortunately, an experienced physician has done just that:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/06/vaccines_the_fallacy_of_the_perfect_solu.php?utm_source=mostactive&utm_medium=link