Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Safe is Gardasil?

Parents are appropriately concerned about vaccines, but I get frustrated with the enormous amounts of negative popular press that immunizations are receiving these days. Vaccines are not only saving lives, but they are improving the quality of our lives dramatically with every decade. Today I'd like to discuss the statistics with Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against four strains of the human papilloma virus which cause genital warts and cervical cancer.

Gardasil was FDA approved and recommended in June of 2006. Since that time, over 32 million doses of the vaccine have been administered. There have been over 17,000 "adverse events" reported, including roughly 1000 "serious" events. The mild to moderate events (over 90%) include transient local swelling or pain, mild and moderate fevers, and nausea or fainting.

So what about the serious events, including 56 deaths? The serious events included primarily Guillian-Barre syndrome (a severe neurologic disorder) and blood clots. The numbers of GBS are no higher than expected in the age group receiving the vaccine, and the girls with blood clots typically had other risk factors for clotting, such as taking the birth control pill. Though deaths in young people are tragic REGARDLESS of the cause, there has been no identifiable pattern in these deaths to suggest that the vaccine caused them. If you look at any age population of 10 million people (32 million doses divided by the 3 shots in a series), sadly, you will see certain lethal cancers, neurological diseases, and other rare ailments.

It is important to understand that in order to figure out side effects from vaccines, any and ALL events that happen within a month (or up to a year) after receiving an immunization can and should be reported- even if it looks like they are completely coincidental. For example, if you get a flu shot today, and are diagnosed with advanced leukemia tomorrow, it gets reported as an "adverse event" of the flu shot- even though it obviously was going on before your shot. Why do this? Because we want to be SURE that there is NOT a relationship between any serious diseases and vaccines, and the only way to know is to collect all the data.

BOTTOM LINE: For Gardasil, look at these numbers and remember there are 1 million new cases of genital warts per year, 12,000 cases of cervical cancer and 4000 deaths from cervical cancer. You do the math. We are choosing to immunize our daughters.

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