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Is Gardasil Safe?

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Our pediatrician weighs in.


Gardasil prevents the spread of HPV -- a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. But out of the millions of Gardasil vaccines administered worldwide since the drug was approved two years ago, 7,802 "adverse events"...from nausea to paralysis...have been reported. The drug manufacturer Merck said in a statement that an adverse event report "does not mean that a causal relationship between an event and vaccination has been established -- just that the event occurred after vaccination."

Is the vaccine safe for our daughters? We asked pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson for her advice.

"Any time a new drug or vaccine comes to market, there is a push and pull. On the one hand, some consumers often worry that it hasn't been studied long enough to be proven safe. On the other hand, others contend that drugs get locked up in a rigorous testing process filled with red tape, ultimately delaying the delivery of the drug to market. This first group would be happy if the medicine stayed out of circulation for longer while the latter group gets frustrated that it is not available sooner.

When it comes to medicines--particularly life-saving medicines--most people seem willing to take the gamble and try something that may not have long-term data. But vaccines are another story. Vaccines protect against getting a disease. Therefore, people who are healthy receive vaccines so they won't get sick. As a result, when vaccines are accused of having serious side effects, they are blamed for taking a perfectly healthy person and making her ill.

Gardasil was licensed by the FDA two years ago for girls ages 9-26. Since then, it has been given to approximately 8 million girls. It has been accused of adverse effects (everything from significant pain to dizzy spells and passing out to death) in more than 7,800 girls. There are 15 reports of death--however, none of these has been proven to be caused by the vaccine.

Before it came to market, Gardasil was studied in more than 10,500 girls over the course of several years. No serious complications were reported in the study group. But it is not uncommon for new complications to be reported when a medicine goes from a relatively small study group to a large population--in this case, for every one girl that received the vaccine in the trial, 760 girls have received it in the doctor's office.

The FDA will have to look closely at the claims against Gardasil, especially the 15 deaths that occurred around the same time that the vaccine was given. As of now, the FDA has found no causal link between the deaths and the vaccine; rather it looks to them like an extremely unfortunate coincidence. The FDA and CDC will continue to probe the situation aggressively, however, because everyone agrees that the goal of vaccines is to prolong life and health, not to threaten them."

Will you allow your daughter to receive the Gardasil vaccine?

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15 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi July 7, 2008, 7:26 PM

My daughter is due to get her last round next month. She has not had any side effects at all. She is going to be 13 and does not even have an interest in boys as of yet, but this will be a good thing for when she is grown and interested. I think it is a great idea to give the shot, we need to make sure we teach our daughters to take control of their own health and not leave it up to anyone else…namely the boys.

funflour July 8, 2008, 9:57 AM

As the daughter of a cervical cancer survivor and myself having ‘pre-cancerous” cells, I have been debating this with my 15 yo daughter. There are also adverse events with other vaccines yet we are required as parents to vaccinate our children before they will be allowed into school. If getting the round of shots prevents my daughter from going through just a little of what my mom and myself have gone through, then it is worth it.

Anonymous July 8, 2008, 8:16 PM

Just an FYI. This vaccine does not claim to prevent cervical cancer. It only “may” provide protection from one (not all) forms of HPV(a venerial disease) which they believe may be a cause of some cervical cancers. It does not protect from all forms of HPV and it does not claim to prevent cervical cancers especially those that would be hereditary in nature.

Mom2Divas July 9, 2008, 10:58 AM

Luckily my girls are still young, 6 and 15 mos. So i have plenty of time to do the research and get all the facts. I have 2 sisters who have recieved the shots and have had no issues other than pain at the injection site..which is normal for any shot. I am glad that the shot is an option now, because i agree that it is time for women to start taking care of themselves and not leave it up to the boys…most boys (up to 25 and some beyond) are not that bright about sex and seem to believe that like everything else they do that they will never be harmed. And i feel like i can say this because i am married to a dummy head myself and he thinks he is superman and nothing bad can ever happen to him. I think its just a matter of getting the facts with this shot….hopefully it will end up being a great thing for us women.

Dr F July 9, 2008, 1:20 PM

Oprah’s guest ObGyn Dr Christiane Northrup said on the show recently that she did not recommend the vaccine because it only works on 4 Human Papilloma Virus strains which are the most thought to be associated with cervical cancer. There are over 700 types of HPV and so the vaccine is no guarantee of protection from this devastating disease. The best way to protect ourselves is by routine pap smears and early detection. Cervical cancer is curable if caught early. I should also point out cervical cancer rates are higher in females who started having sex at an earlier age and who had multiple partners. So it is also important to alter our sexual behaviours in this respect (ie. not just because of STDs and HIV). No magic vaccine will save your life in this case!

Tami July 10, 2008, 9:34 PM

My daughers have both had the vaccine, and I am thankful that we live in a time when these options are available. Neither have had any adverse reactions. When any new medication hits the market, everyone focuses on the negative instead of the positive. Lawyers have their hands out and want everyone to experience an “adverse effect”. Everyone freaks out about the possible consequences. Out of 8 million girls, only 7,000 had an “adverse effect” including simple reactions such as nausea and headache. Ten individuals died and these deaths were not related to Gardasil..they simply occurred after Gardasil was given. You know, the above post talks about the fact that Gardasil is only effective on 4 strains of HPV. What she (or he) didn’t say, is that these 4 strains are the most dangerous types, and are those that lead to cervical cancer. Why would anyone turn this down? I would also like her to explain how she would try to get people to “alter their sexual behaviors”. Good Luck!! Anyway, I believe that this vaccine is just another step on the way to improving one’s chance at a long and healthy life, and is a major advance in women’s health.

Dr F July 13, 2008, 2:18 PM

Dear Tami, wouldn’t you try to teach your 2 daughters not to ‘sleep around’ and ‘bed hop’ when you teach them about sex?? It’s your responsibility to guide them about being healthy and that includes sexual health. Not sleeping around and ‘waiting for someone special’ are things that should be taught by YOU. What are you hoping to do, leave it to peer pressure and the media to tell your daughters what is right from what is wrong??
You obviously are not a doctor or talk like you have never been to a doctor! If you were at risk of ANY disease eg. heart disease wouldn’t you want to lower your RISK FACTORS? You would stop smoking, eat right to lower your cholesterol, take moderate exercise etc etc etc!!!!! A doctor advises their patient how to modify their behaviour to help them have better health.
Most lay people do not know of the link between sexual promiscuousness and cervical cancer and maybe if they did, they MAY just MAY think twice. I am not saying it’s NOT a great advance and that you should not get vaccinated Tami! I said it’s no magic!!!!!! Don’t expect to be safe from cervical cancer just because you got vaccinated, just like you can still catch chicken pox even though you got the shots!!

Dr F July 13, 2008, 2:23 PM

Plus I said OUR sexual behaviours not THEIR. Change starts with ourselves first. I didn’t say I wanted to change the world’s sexual behaviours, did I? I am only trying to help empower others with knowledge. You should try not being so hasty in your comments and read more slowly next time.

Sarah Lancaster August 12, 2008, 6:01 PM


Parents are NOT required to vaccinate their children before entering them into school. Nearly every state has exemptions to vaccine requirements; the reasons that are considered acceptable vary from state to state. As parents, it is our job to educate ourselves and make the best decisions we can, not to blindly follow what we are told to do by the “experts” and hope that everything turns out well.

Lowell Hubbs October 23, 2008, 9:52 PM

I have reseached this Gardasil vaccine for weeks. Please read and investigate the following sites and articles, the article, Polysorbate 80 and Histidine, a Marriage of Disaster. This article proves the connection to adverse reactions!,html, for a face put to it personal account. This site has other personal accounts of damage by this vaccine. www.woman, for some more personal accounts. Any form of the half way correct collection of words in relation to, will result in a finding of more information on Gardasil. The Great HPV Vaccine Hoax Exposed, at, will take you through a series of articles that have a link to the actual FDA report on the isssues they found concerning Gardasil, details issues of which the public nor doctors have been told. Suspected then by the FDA in regard to Gardasil, and thus additionally is proving now, the vaccine accelerates and triggers existing HPV to worsen, in which multiple outbrakes of HPV warts have been seen and even triggered precancerous lesions that were not there prior to vaccination. This vaccine needs be recalled immediately. these is to much risk. And doctors can not be counted on to adhere to any new warnings, as HPV is not even screened for in the majority of cases, prior to vaccination.

norma April 10, 2010, 6:33 PM

My daughter has been sick since receiving the first Gardasil shot a year ago. The side effects that are considered not severe by VAERS are considered VERY SEVERE by the girls that suffer from Nausea, Headaches, Dizziness, Fatigue, Neck Pain, Tremors, Muscle Weakness, Leg Pain, Hair Loss, Auto Immune Disorders to name a few. Try living everyday with 4,5,or more of these symptoms. They do not just experience just one they suffer several on a daily basis. India has just halted their HPV vaccine program. Why does the USA put $$ before the well being of our children.

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