The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

“Should Parents Be Worried About HPV Vaccine?” How About Women?

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 9, 2008

This CNN article raises some of the emerging concerns about adverse reactions to the Gardasil HPV vaccine; some girls and women who get the course of jabs are experiencing side-effects ranging from nausea to, well, death (apparently). The American stats are as follows:

Gardasil has been the subject of 7,802 “adverse event” reports from the time the Food and Drug Administration approved its use two years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Girls and women have blamed the vaccine for causing ailments from nausea to paralysis — even death. Fifteen deaths were reported to the FDA, and 10 were confirmed, but the CDC says none of the 10 were linked to the vaccine. The CDC says it continues to study the reports of illness.

But what bothers me about the piece is not so much the worrying emergence of stories such as Oklahoma’s Jesalee Parsons, 13, who developed Pancreatitis after her shot (which is, to be sure, horrifying), but the way CNN has pitched the piece: its title is “Should Parents Be Worried About HPV Vaccine?”

Fair enough, it’s a question that needs to be asked, as many of Gardasil’s recipients have been young girls. But what about those of us over 18 who went and got the injection ourselves? Are we irrelevant? Do we only need to, as The Simpsons‘ Helen Lovejoy likes to scream, think of the children?

However, sub-editorial whinges aside, the growing concerns about Gardasil are, well, concerning. I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks that the path from testing phase to mass distribution seems to have been particularly swift with Gardasil – and questions are starting to be asked about possible long-term health and fertility issues aside from side-effects.

This Huffington Post piece by Yvonne K. Fullbright raises some salient points:

While there are over 100 different types of HPV strains, at least 30 of which can cause genital warts, the vaccine only targets four of them. Two of these strains – 6 and 11 – cause approximately 90% of genitals warts. Strains 16 and 18 cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. As with other new vaccines, it’s unclear how long the protection will last at this point.

Another issue at play is the fact that we simply don’t know enough about the vaccine, specifically, its long-term effects. Gardasil contains aluminum and nobody knows how that may eventually impact a female’s fertility.

On her first point, what of those of us who already have HPV? I have been told I am in a “high risk” group with regards to developing cervical cancer; will Gardasil help, or just make sure I don’t increase my risk of cancer? And the second point is possibly most troubling. Women’s fertility is, in many cases, already in a delicate balance; how do we know how/if Gardasil will effect that?

I have had my first two injections, but this growing tide of concern/questions about the vaccine have left me somewhat reticent about calling to make that third appointment. Particularly, CNN, since my parents aren’t the ones who’ll be calling the doctor and holding my hand through the appointment.

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3 Responses to ““Should Parents Be Worried About HPV Vaccine?” How About Women?”

  1. Meils said

    Mandatory reporting of “adverse events” following medical procedures do not require investigation into causation of said “adverse event”.

    For example, I could take my pill as I do every morning, then walk across the road for a coffee only to be hit by a bus and left paralysed from the neck down. This “adverse event” would be treated in hospital, my medical history would be taken, and eventually linked in to OCP data despite its presence in my history being a coincidence rather than a causation.

    US abstinence groups are having a field day with the “deaths” data, publicising it at any opportunity to push their agenda. They didn’t want the vaccine to be introduced because by their reckoning, it will encourage premarital sex – you can imagine the power that serious links like death, pancreatitis and paralysis (once again coincidental rather than causative until proven otherwise) have in their hands.

    With regards to the increase in “adverse events” such as nausea, dizziness, shaking etc. etc. etc. – perhaps TT and The Terrorgraph should have looked up the side effect data profiles for vaccinations as a whole rather than just the Gardasil shots – they’d find a nice little correlation between teenage girls being given ANY injection and scariness like fainting, vomiting, and “paralysis”. Anxiety attacks can be responsible for all the side effects being reported, but “teenage girls are sooks” doesn’t make as good copy as “OMGDZ NEEDLEZ GIVES FEMALEZ TEH BRAIN AIDZ”.

  2. Clem Bastow said

    True, and the anti-vaccination crew (who to me are particularly worrisome – “babies don’t need anti-measles/polio/etc shots, nature is better than nurture!!” etc) are also all over it.

    But I do worry about possible effects on fertility, and there are increasing numbers of non-crazy, non-interested-either-way medical experts (and actual experts, not in the TT “walking and holding some files” expert manner) who suggest that there should have been a longer period between testing and distro of Gardasil for that reason.

  3. Meils said

    I’d be more worried about constant exposure to aluminium through cookware, cans of Diet Coke and tins of baked beans during those less flush weeks than the microscopic amounts in the vaccine, but ehhh… I viewed my chemo drugs as bonus contraception, so perhaps I’m not the best person to be commenting.

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