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.