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Gardasil, Or Guard Your Girls. Or Guard Your Girls Against Gardasil

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A Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA showed that there are 1,824 adverse events associated with the vaccine Gardasil, including 11 deaths. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a virus that is spread by unprotected sexual intercourse that affects more than half of the population. HPV can cause genital warts and in rare cases cervical cancer. For 95% of people, however, they are asymptomatic and never know they have an HPV infection. Although almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, since HPV is so ubiquitous it is uncommon for HPV to progress to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills 4000 women per year, only 1/10th the death rate of breast cancer, for example. If you do the numbers, that means that about 0.002% of women infected with HPV die each year from
HPV-induced cervical cancer—not a very impressive number.

Recently the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil has crept up on us, which in 2006 was mandated for all young girls in Texas with proposals for mandated vaccination in a growing number of other states. But is the HPV vaccine safe and effective? Since the vaccine is new we don’t know about the long-term consequences of vaccination. Known side effects of Gardasil include pain and swelling at the site of injection. Fever occurs in about 1% of cases.

Safe sex practices, although not always realistic behavior to expect, especially in young people, are an alternative way to prevent HPV until more is known about the vaccine. However you should know that condoms won’t always stop infection, since HPV can be spread by parts of the genitals that are not covered by the latex.

[reposted from October 8, 2007, post on]

[Doug Bremner MD is author of The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.