HPV Vaccine Facts All Parents Need to Know
- Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I sat at a picnic table listening to various mothers discussing their hectic schedules trying to keep up with teenage daughters, all on the same sports team. When one mother told of squeezing in an appointment that morning to get her daughter the HPV shot that her doctor recommended, the conversation turned to the necessity to "protect" their girls in such troubling times. I stayed quiet, hoping to learn the values guiding these parents' decisions. Predictably, they had not thought through the issues, nor did they know the facts.
Those mothers were merely following doctors' recommendations and that of all the experts. Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, was approved in 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for females as young as nine and up to age 26. It has been marketed as a protection against four types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Merck, the company that makes Gardasil, claims that the drug will protect against two types of HPV that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and two types that cause 90 percent of genital warts. Every federal health authority recommends the shots and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a quarter of the nation's 13-17 year olds have received the immunizations. The vaccine is on the CDC's vaccine schedule for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it.
Even so, some physicians remain wary of the trend to give young children a new, largely untried drug. A study in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research revealed that about half of the doctors in a survey of over a thousand physicians in Texas did not routinely recommend Gardasil for their pre-teen patients.
What those Texas doctors suspected, we now know for sure - that serious concerns are legitimate regarding the use of Gardasil. The highly-promoted, so-called breakthrough vaccine that was recommended for all girls and given to numerous children and teens to prevent possible future cases of cervical cancer, is related to "adverse events" experienced by thousands of girls after taking the vaccine.
In a just-released article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, federal researchers report that after analyzing 12,424 "adverse events" [out of the 13,758 reports of problems as of May 1] voluntarily reported by girls vaccinated with Gardasil that two problems are common. One - fainting - is not inherently serious, but can be if the girl falls and hits her head. The other side effect - "dangerous blood clots" - is quite troubling.. Most of the problems with Gardasil (93 percent) are minor: headache, nausea, and fever. But a disturbing seven percent included hospitalization, permanent disability, life-threatening illness, or death.
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