Health

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Harry Cabluck/AP

Agencies Say Gardasil Safe, But Public Isn’t So Sure

July 24, 2008 11:14 AM
by Cara McDonough
After reviewing thousands of reports of health problems reportedly linked to the HPV vaccine, U.S. officials said that “its benefits continue to outweigh its risks.”

30-Second Summary

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The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly reviewed more than 9,700 cases of health problems that followed Gardasil injections, 6 percent of which were listed as “serious events” including six deaths, Reuters reports.

The most serious adverse effects did not appear related to the vaccine, the agencies said in a joint statement. In cases where an autopsy was available, “the cause of death was explained by factors other than the vaccine.”

But doctors, parents and other members of the public have raised serious questions about the vaccine, which protects against some strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. Some claim the vaccine has caused severe side effects, including paralysis and even death.

Dr. Diane Harper, one of the researchers who helped develop the drug, said recently that a push by several states and supported by Merck to make the vaccine mandatory for young girls “went too fast without any breaks.”

Harper says there has not been enough postmarketing surveillance of Gardasil to make sure it is not dangerous for girls as young as 11 and 12, who are recommended for the vaccine.

Furthermore, critics worry that Gardasil may be targeting the wrong age group altogether. Middle-school-aged girls who receive the vaccine will be no more than 18 when they pass its five-year proven window of effectiveness.

Additionally, many young women’s immune systems clear the virus within one to two years of contracting it. And when detected early, HPV can be treated and rarely leads to cancer.

Headline Link: Gardasil popular despite concerns

Background: Controversy over HPV vaccine

Related Topics: Gardasil given too young; STDs in teenagers; the abstinence issue

Opinion & Analysis: Weighing the pros and cons

Reference: Cervical cancer statistics; STDs

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