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Gardasil: Safety of Genetically Engineered HPV Vaccine Still in Question

By September 3, 2008

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You can't go anywhere these days without seeing a poster promoting vaccination against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) for prevention of the infection causing genital warts and, more importantly, cervical cancer. One of two vaccines currently on the market, Gardasil, made by Sanofi Pasteur MSD (a division of Merck), was recently endorsed in the medical journal Lancet by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and prior to that, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. While its efficacy seems to be established, its safety is still in question. Like other vaccines, Gardasil can induce reactions in recipients, thus immunization is not without risks.

Most recently, Reuters reported on an Australian study that found young girls receiving the vaccine had a higher incidence of anaphylactic reactions than students receiving other vaccines. Although researchers had theories as to what other factors might have been involved in those elevated numbers, this is not the only study with results pointing to the same conclusions. Last May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported higher rates of fainting in girls receiving the vaccine but still endorses the vaccine on their website. The WHO advisory committee has also apparently concluded there is no cause for concern.

Gardasil is a quadrivalent vaccine meaning it protects against 4 strains of virus (types 6, 11, 16, and 18). The vaccine was made using genetic engineering techniques. The genes that encode a specific protein from each of these strains are expressed in yeast in large-scale fermentation cultures. Protein purification methods are then used to isolate the proteins and make the vaccine. The vaccine is considered safer than other types of vaccine that use live, or even "attenuated" (dead) virus, because it is only the protein that is injected. There is still a risk, however, of having an allergic reaction to one of the foreign proteins.

Read more about Gardasil on About.com


Fox M. and Weissler D. (Eds). Study Finds More Allergic Reactions After HPV Jab. Reuters September 1, 2008.

Routine Vaccination Against Human Papillomavirus. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2008. 8:141.

Gardasil: Questions and Answers. 2006. US Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/cber/products/hpvmer060806qa.htm.

HPV Vaccine Information for Young Women. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/STDFact-HPV-vaccine.htm.


September 4, 2008 at 10:54 am
(1) Heidi-Lore says:

This vaccine is not proven, and way too expensive to boot. Keep your daughters far away from it!!!!

September 4, 2008 at 11:56 am
(2) John says:

I don’t know why Gardasil doesn’t make a small little ‘sensitivity test’ – similar to the prick tests they use when determining allergies in people – to see if a girl is going to have a bad reaction to it. Then they could avoid the terrible results that have been occurring to these girls.

September 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm
(3) Samuel Adams says:

Not without risks….like, you know, death. And creating a society where the Government forces drugs on people. And one where it is implied that all young girls are participating in risky sex with multiple partners, thereby normalizing such behavior.

September 5, 2008 at 10:11 am
(4) imreddiru says:

DO OUR OWN RESEARCH!!! This article brings up some questions about the safety of this vaccine, however when you look at the data and warnings that Gardisil comes with, you can easily discern(those who pay attention) that this shot actually heightens your risk of cancer, further more there have been at least 137 deaths as of Early March 2008. Also, when you realize the context of the situation you will see that there are only 9,000 cases of cervical cancer a year. Out of these there are even less that were caused by HPV. As for the HPV there are over 60 types, and the ones that this shot is supposed to protect you from are not the most dangerous or most frequently found. All these cases are non lethal diagnosis and can be cured dealt with. The fact that we want to inject whole communities when there are only 9000 cases a year is fishy. This vaccine is unwarranted and also has not had a full five years of testing from the FDA(not that I’d trust it if the had). I dont know all the details but once again I say.. DO THE RESEARCH!

September 5, 2008 at 10:16 am
(5) Candace says:

I agree with the one that posted that forcing the vaccine assumes all young girls are engaging in risky sex. The purpose of this vaccine, is to cause them to become sterile and you can bet it’s not about protecting against sexual diseases, otherwise they would not be forcing it on YOUNG women.

September 5, 2008 at 3:23 pm
(6) Cory says:

The anti-vax crowd puts everyone at risk. Measles on the way back because parents think they have a degree in medicine and know better. Bah. At least evolution works, although slowly.

September 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm
(7) Lynne says:

What an absurd remark equating the exposure of FACTS about Gardisil, to ignorance on the part of the “anti-vax” crowd, Cory.

So, it’s really worth causing serious harm or possibly even death to young girls, just to supposedly keep a few from contracting an otherwise preventable/ treatable disease? BTW, HPV doesn’t just float about like other viruses; one must engage in certain behaviors to contract it. Why not just FORCE all young girls to take birth control pills, because, well, we just KNOW they’re all going to be sexually active and get knocked up; we’ve gotta protect them from themselves.

Furthermore, there are other forms of cervical dysplasia that gardisil won’t protect someone from. Years ago, I was diagnosed with the same, which turned out not to be HPV-related. Had I been born in a later time I may have gone merrily on my way, not bothering with a pap smear because I had the false idea that hey, I’d gotten the shot.

If a vaccine for HIV was discovered, would you advocate forcing everyone to get that, too?

September 11, 2008 at 7:17 pm
(8) KD says:

I am a 16 year old victim of the Gardasil vaccine. No matter how safe MERCK claims it is all they are interested in are their profits not the small fish they fry. No one is helping the victims of this unnesasery vaccine. No one will stand up and fight for the small fish. I would rather have died from cervical cancer than live in the pain i am currently in. So screw you people who push this vaccine on your daughters, and just remeber you may be the one who kills them in the end.

September 23, 2008 at 4:50 pm
(9) VegasMel says:

Nothing comes without some risk. You can walk out your front door and get hit by a bus. But by taking precautions you may lower your risk of some diseases. I’m not saying the vaccine is right for everyone but in some cases the risks may out weigh the consequences. Afterall, if wasn’t for conventional medicine and vaccines we would have many diseases in mass epidemic.

September 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm
(10) margaret says:

I am in Australia and I believe the Gardasil is now MANDATORY for medical students in Queensland (possibly other states too).
No gardasil = out of medical course.
Why on earth do medical students need this vaccine ??

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