The FDA has approved a vaccine called Gardasil to protect against contracting the HPV virus. Clinical trials have proven that Gardasil is 100 percent effective against two strains of the HPV virus (16 and 18) that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. The vaccine is also 90 percent effective against the strains that cause 90 percent of genital warts (8 and 11). Although the medicine has been approved and recommended by the CDC, there is some controversy regarding potential long- and short-term side effects of the medication.
Stated Side Effects
The manufacturers of Gardasil state that the most common side effects of the drug are short-term ones, including dizziness, fainting, headache, hives, rash, stomachaches, chills and seizures. The CDC states that 11 percent of all complaints by those vaccinated with Gardasil involved fainting or dizziness, and that it is common for teens to faint after being vaccinated. Dr. Daron Ferris of the Gardasil research team assures that there are no long-term side effects and that Gardasil is a safe vaccine. Dr. Ferris cites studies involving upwards of 10,000 patients who were tracked for a period of five years. CDC officials appear to concur with Gardasil's position that the drug is safe, stating that the side effects are minor and that no additional warning labels regarding long- or short-term side effects are required.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a potential side effect of HPV that has long-term effects. GBS is a disorder that causes persistent muscle weakness. The disorder has a paralyzing side effect that can last a lifetime after one is diagnosed with the disorder. The CDC states that there were three cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that were allegedly linked to Gardasil; however the CDC's official position, as stated by John Iskander of the immunization safety office, is that there is no indication that Gardasil increases the rate of Guillain-Barre Syndrome within the general population and that the connection is not "worrisome."
Blood clots have been reported in those who received the Gardasil vaccine. The clots may appear in the legs, heart or lungs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, data current through May 1, 2009, may link the Gardasil vaccine to up to 39 deaths. The CDC investigated these claims that the Gardasil vaccine was responsible for the death of the vaccinated girls. The CDC states that, of the 26 reports that have been confirmed, there is nothing to suggest that the deaths were caused by the Gardasil vaccine. Six reports remain under investigation, and the final seven do not have sufficient patient contact information to be investigated.
There is a tremendous amount of controversy associated with Gardasil and its potential long-term side effects. Some of this controversy stems from the fact that the vaccine may lead to inappropriate sexual behavior by providing teen girls with a false sense of protection from sexually transmitted diseases. However, much of the controversy is also due to the fact that the long-term side effects and/or adverse side effects are unknown. One patient, Swank, is said to have had continuous side effects, including seizures, strokes and heart problems, that were caused by Gardasil. Information reported by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) may lend credence to the fact that Gardasil's side effects vastly outnumber the side effects of the meningitis vaccine issued to patients within the same age group as those who receive Gardasil.
The NVIC report also suggests that the testing on Gardasil was insufficient to demonstrate the long-term safety of the drug, and points out that only 1,200 girls ages 16 or younger were part of the initial tests of Gardasil.
However, the CDC's official position is that Gardasil is a safe vaccine, with no higher incidents of problems than the meningitis vaccine, and thus contradicts the NVIC's assertion.
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