PRI Review

What You Should Know about Gardasil (HPV Vaccine)

Gardasil is a new vaccine targeting four strains of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) generally believed to be the cause of cervical cancer. Two of these strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18 apparently account for about 70 percent of all cervical cancers. However, it is worth noting that the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. says that “direct causation has not been demonstrated.”

HPV: What It Is

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease, often associated with promiscuity, It has been found that progesterone-based contraceptives, such as Depo Provera, significantly thin the vaginal linings, making bruising, abrasions and subsequent infection more likely.

Gardasil is being introduced in the UK, has been fast-tracked in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and is being highly recommended for “adolescent” males 9 to 15 years and females 9 to 26 years of age. Large bill boards around Sydney advertise the vaccine free from GPs for young women between the ages of 18 and 26, and the pressure is really on in schools for parents to agree to have their young daughters vaccinated with Gardasil.

However, the vaccine is far from safe. In fact, the only thing known for certain about Gardasil is that there are many uncertainties.

A worst-case scenario comes from the U.S. where a Washington-based public interest group, Judicial Watch, has reported that the vaccine has been tied to the deaths of three young women, the youngest only 12 years of age. The deaths were caused by myocarditis, coronary artery thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Judicial Watch also reported that, of 42 women who got the vaccine while pregnant, 18 experienced side effects ranging from spontaneous abortion to fetal abnormalities. Also in the U.S., the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received 385 individual Gardasil adverse event reports, most requiring additional medical care and about one-third of these were for children 16 years and under.

VAERS is co-sponsored by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The VAERS report covered the last six months of 2006. It is estimated that fewer than 10 percent, and sometimes as low as 14 percent, of adverse reactions occurring after prescription drug or vaccine are ever reported. This could mean that there may have been up to 38,000 health problems associated with Gardasil in that period.

According to Dr. George Sawaya of the University of California, San Francisco, the effects of the vaccine are “modest” at best. “The effect is fairly small,” said Sawaya. “The recommendation for widespread vaccination of women after they become sexually active may need to be rethought.” This belief stems from the evidence that the vaccination only reduces the incidence of cancer precursors by a mere 17 percent, W Martin Kast, an immunologist for the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine also believes the original outcome from the studies may have been tainted. He says the study did not go on for a long enough time to reveal the vaccines true worth or potential.

The Bad Effects

Adverse reactions reported to VAERS include:

  • loss of consciousness and syncope

  • seizures

  • dizziness, shakiness, “feeling faint”

  • loss of vision, decrease in quality of vision, dryness of eyes

  • abnormal speech

  • nausea, vomiting

  • headache

  • pallor, purple coloration of the lips

  • fever, chills

  • dyskinesia (difficulty or distortion in performing voluntary movements)

  • difficulty swallowing

  • joint pain

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (an immune disorder which affects the peripheral nervous system and in extreme cases can cause paralysis)

  • hives, itching, rashes, blisters, vesicles, and skin ulcers

  • swelling of the arms, swelling of the lower extremities, swelling of the lymph nodes.

  • severe pain at the site of injection.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), which analyzed the VAERS report, has warned that “Although adverse event reports to VAERS do not prove causation, they can provide an early warning sign that a new vaccine may he causing health problems.”

HPV/Gardasil in the USA

Editor’s note: Several U.S. states have already passed legislation requiring girls to be vaccinated against HPV. Many others are considering similar laws. The governor of Virginia, home of PRI, recently signed into law a bill which will require the vaccine for all girls entering sixth grade (with a provision for parents to opt out). This is especially controversial, since the vaccine is only considered to be effective for about five years (no one knows for sure how long the immunity lasts). By insisting on vaccinating girls for a sexually transmitted disease when they are 11 or 12, the assumption is that they will all be sexually active before they are 16 or 17.

Gail Instance is the head of Family Life International-Australia.

This article was originally published in the FLI newsletter, January 2008.

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