Here’s what the media wants you to know — with all those evil germs and diseases floating around, you can’t be too careful. You’d better wash your hands (with antibacterial soap) every hour, stock up on drugs, and fortify yourself with vaccines lest you fall prey to something deadly. Ditto for your kids — vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate before it’s too late. The pressure is on to give kids flu vaccines, swine-flu vaccines, measles vaccines, chicken-pox vaccines, pneumonia and hepatitis vaccines, in addition to the old fashioned polio and diphtheria vaccines. As if all that vaccination isn’t enough to ensure that the kids will survive until the high-school prom, there’s yet another vaccine that parents have been urged to give to their kids — the Gardasil vaccine, which ostensibly prevents cervical cancer in girls and genital warts in boys.
Gardasil burst onto the scene in 2006, the new darling of Merck & Co. Merck conducted all the testing on the vaccine and decreed it safe and 100 percent effective in preventing genital warts and pre-cancers of the cervix, and vulva and vagina, as caused by four different strains of HPV. The vaccine looked so good that two dozen states initiated legislation to mandate it for girls aged nine and up. In fact, it seemed so fantastic that the FDA recently approved it for administration to boys starting at age nine as a genital wart preventative.
But alas! The Gardasil tale became blemished early on as stories of side effects and questionable efficacy started to leak out. And now, experts are concerned about possible links between the vaccine and an aggressive form of Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS). It seems that this past March, two months after Merck applied to the FDA to expand Gardasil approval to cover both boys over the age of nine and older women aged 27 to 46, a 13-year-old girl died of a pediatric form of ALS. She became ill shortly after receiving a Gardasil injection. Shortly after, another girl died under similar circumstances, and a third one contracted the disease.
Research director Dr. Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, who also directs the ALS Center at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, says, “We don’t know for sure if it’s coincidence or if they’re connected (to the vaccine),” but she adds that, “both the timing of the symptoms and autopsy results suggest a link.” Another ALS expert, Dr. Barbara Shapiro of the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine argues that a link looks likely. “Juvenile ALS tends to progress very slowly over years or even decades, but these girls all seemed to have a more rapid, progressive form,” she says. And doctors report that the autopsies revealed spinal inflammation very different from what normally occurs with ALS.
Already, seven million girls and young women nationwide have taken the vaccine. Since no link was suspected until now, physicians most likely haven’t considered the possibility that new cases of ALS had anything to do with the vaccine, and they haven’t looked for a connection. It’s likely that a number of new cases of Gardasil-induced ALS will begin to surface now that the possible link has hit the news. But ALS isn’t the only serious problem reported after Gardasil administration. In fact, more than five times the number of adverse events have been reported in conjunction with Gardasil compared to any other vaccine. These problems include an increased number of blood clots, a high incidence of fainting, and some incidence of autoimmune disease.
Plus, as I wrote a few months ago, the vaccine only remains effective for five years after administration, meaning that young girls will need re-vaccination at least once before hitting high school (or will need to be sexually active before age 14 to receive any benefit). The vaccine doesn’t even protect against all strains of HPV virus. In fact, according to Dr. Charlotte Haug, who edits the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, “If it were a perfect vaccine, you would never have to think about cervical cancer again. But it is effective against two of the strains of the virus, and there are at least 20 cancer-causing strains out there.”
Dr. Diane Harper, a leading authority on Gardasil, has pointed things to say. She started as an advocate of the vaccine. In fact, she consulted to Merck, worked to get Gardasil approved, and wrote many of the published papers about it. Now, though, she’s done a 180.
“If we vaccinate 11 year olds and the protection doesn’t last,” she says, “we’ve put them at harm from side effects, small but real, for no benefit. The benefit to public health is nothing, there is no reduction in cervical cancers, they are just postponed, unless the protection lasts for at least 15 years, and over 70% of all sexually active females of all ages are vaccinated.”
Even more to the point, she says, “The rate of serious adverse events [from Gardasil vaccines is] on par with the death rate of cervical cancer. Gardasil has been associated with at least as many serious adverse events as there are deaths from cervical cancer developing each year. Indeed, the risks of vaccination are underreported…[by up to five-fold.]”
Such warnings have done little to stop the avalanche of vaccination. Even as these new and worrisome reports trickle out, Gardasil continues to sell like mad, with profits up to $1.6 billion this year, and more projected as young boys and older women line up to get the vaccine. It strains credulity.
And yet stunningly, on a related note, the government and the medical community cannot understand why 50% of the public finds their pronouncements that the new swine flu vaccine is “perfectly” safe to be less than credible.