Sunday, December 14, 2008

How Long Will Gardasil’s 3-Shot Series Be Effective?

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Update: As of May 8 2009, Merck reported that Gardasil showed a 96 percent protection against HPV type 16 after 8.5 years. That strain, one of four, covered by the vaccine, currently accounts for about 53.2 percent of invasive cervical cancers although a recent study showed that 16 was already losing ground to non-vaccine HPV types prior to the introduction of Gardasil.

At the same time, Merck reported that researchers had found a 17 to 45 percent reduction in abnormal Pap smears for vaccinated subjects in two randomized, placebo-controlled trials, 3.6 years into the study. The subjects had tested negative for HPV at the start of the study and had had normal Pap smears.



Proponents of Merck’s HPV vaccine, Gardasil, are quick to dismiss its side-effects as well worth the risk. After all, it’s the first vaccine against cancer, protecting young girls against perhaps 70 percent of the strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer as well as some unpleasant little items like genital warts.

But how long will that protection actually last?

My daughter’s doctor couldn’t answer, even though he advised me to get her the shot. Merck’s own Gardasil website doesn’t address the question, nor does it provide a mechanism for asking it.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s website, Gardasil might only protect against HPV for four years. “The duration of immunity is not yet known. Research is being conducted to find out how long protection will last. Studies thus far have shown that Gardasil can provide protection against HPV 16 for 4 years.”

The Centers for Disease Control says in one area of its website only that “research suggests” that Gardasil’s protective effect should last for “a long time”, and in another that “studies have so far shown that vaccinated persons are protected for five years.”

And Gail Javitt, Deena Berkowitz, and Lawrence O. Gostin state in an article published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics that “One study indicates that protection against persistent HPV 16 infection remained at 94 percent 3.5 years after vaccination with HPV 16.34. A second study showed similar protection for types 16 and 18 after 4.5 years.”

Girls as young as nine are now receiving the series of three shots and it’s routinely recommended for girls of eleven and twelve. These girls will perhaps need to receive a booster shot in their mid- to late teens, and regularly after that. Cervical cancer has an incubation period of 7 to 20 years and is rare in women under 40; the average cervical cancer patient is 48 years old.

Women who had received the rubella shot as children of the sixties will remember being advised to have another shot prior to trying to conceive because the vaccine had not proved to be effective over the long haul.

At this point there doesn’t appear to be a clear plan for ensuring continued immunity, although research is ongoing and will doubtless address questions about the cumulative effect of necessary booster shots along with the original 3-shot series.

What do you think? Has enough research been done on length of time that Gardasil protects against HPV and the cumulative effect of booster shots? Would you be (or would you have been) willing to have the 3-shot series, or have your daughter take it, knowing that booster shots might be necessary? Please share your experiences!

24 comments:

Shobha said...

FYI- There is a new book on “The HPV Vaccine Controversy: Sex, Cancer, God and Politics” authored by a board certified physician from Barnard college, Columbia University. It is available at amazon.com and Barnes and Noble .com and is written without the influence of any pharmaceutical company or special interest groups. Link to the book: http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/C35011.aspx

gardasil said...

Thanks, I'll check it out. What do you think about this vaccine? Would you get it for your own child?

I'm intrigued by the mention of God--something that has not figured in my own deliberations at all. I see this as purely a health issue, but I know there was some concern that the vaccine would be seen as a moral issue.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I created a link to this post on my blog. www.hpvupdates.info

Anonymous said...

I would rather have 4 years protection than none. Wake up people. Whoop dee doo if you have to get a booster years down the road----cancer is your other option. As for the God part, as harsh as of statement AND controversial as this could be---if you are a Christian and following Christian principles as God laid out for you, you are at a MUCH lower risk of contracting HPV. If you do not agree with me or understand what I mean by that-PLEASE inquire, I will explain! Blessings!

Anonymous said...

How is cancer my other option? From what I hear about 90 % of HPV infections clear up by themselves, and if you get regular pap smears they can catch any problem before it even becomes cancer. I'm 18 and I'm still trying to figure out if Gardasil shots are worth all the side effects I keep hearing about. If I would keep having to have booster shots that is worrying. Could this stuff really mount up in my system?

Anonymous said...

By the way, I understand what you're saying about God, but I don't have a lot of faith that I could find someone that has never had any kind of sex. I know even oral sex can pass on HPV, so if I get the gardasil shots it won't be because I'm worried about my morality, but sometimes people make mistakes or they get wild and then wise up later. That doesn't make them bad people.

Anonymous said...

Go to the FDA and CDC's website-there is a link to all the safety things that have been reported and there is a bold statement that most of the things that have been reported were by no means caused by Gardasil. They have made NO changes to the recommendations for ALL females 9-26 to be vaccinated. You are right some people do mistakes so why would you take that risk and not protect yourself---so what if you have to get a booster later in life--you have get Tetanus every 10 years-you are supposed to get a flu shot every year-I have had MANY friends go through the HORROR of HPV infections-some of them were not promiscous. you are also right that many women can clear the infection, but there are many who wont based on other risk---you will also just keep getting it back if you are with the same partner b/c it is very difficult to diagnose and treat in males B/C the cancerous strains are asymptomatic. This is vaccine prevents CANCER-not chicken pox, not flu, not meningitis, but CANCER. I know many hold strong opinions on this vaccine-I for one prefer abstinence,but I am also realistic!

Anonymous said...

i am a 16 that had a gardicil shot 4 months ago and im due for a pregnancy shot. i havent had my period for 4 months. do you think the shot stopped me up somehow?

Anonymous said...

if you dont have your period can you not get a pregnancy shot? the doctor said i have to have my period to get the shot. but when i got my first shot i didnt need my period.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...are you pregnant? If so, does the doctor that's giving you Gardasil know? Gardasil isn't recommended during pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

Gardasil shouldn't be recommended at all, to anyone. I got the first Gardasil shot in November 2008, since then I have been very sick and have to be on six different medications. I didn't get the rest of the series and I got the flu shot on the same day as well. My doctor said it was safe, but apparently she didn't really know. It started the day after I got the shots, I was nauseated, had a fever, chills. I thought I just caught something and didn't think much about it. Then the nausea wouldn't go away and I couldn't stop vomiting, so I went in to get a pregnancy test done and it was negative. I thought for sure that was it because the only other time I had ever been nauseated was during pregnancy. The nausea and vomiting kept persisting and I kept having to go the doctor, I had started to loose a significant amount of weight (I was thin to begin with) and was not feeling well. The next thing that happened to me was I started experiencing a lot of pain and stiffness in my joints and muscles as well as chest pain. My inflammation markers (blood work) were very high. At this point I had gone to a Rheumatologist and a Gastroenterologist and now six months later none of my doctors know what it causing my symptoms. I have gone through a ton of tests and procedures and nothing conclusive. I know that the Gardasil vaccine is what has caused me to be so sick, I have yet to speak with my doctors about it, I have an appointment next week, but I know that is what happened. I went from being a healthy, active woman to struggling to do basic things like picking up my daughter or my normal activities, and missing out on things taking her for a simple walk outside. I would tell young women and mothers not to get this vaccination, or at the very least do your own research. The doctors only give you information that they get from the pharmaceutical companies whose best interest is their bottom line, not the effects their products actually have on human beings. Another note, someone previously mentioned that you can look at the FDA and CDC reports. How reliable are the FDA and CDC? They have dismissed many claims of Gardasil reactions as coincidence, this is just atrocious to me that they are not listening to what is happening and making thousands of young girls their test subjects. The truth is that Gardasil was fast tracked and hasn't had any long term studies done, so they don't even know how long the vaccine will last or what the long term side effects may be. When are people going to wake up and realize they can tell us whatever they want; they are only looking out for themselves! My doctor recommended this vaccine to me and was very persistent, she didn't even recognize that I am at a low risk for contracting HPV. This experience has made me realize that doctors don't know everything and you need to be in control of your health by doing your own investigation. As of now, April 2009, there are 36 Gardasil related deaths and thousands of people seriously ill, to me the risks outweigh the benefits. It is very unfortunate that I am so sick, and who knows if it is permanent, at this point I just want my life back. My life is completely different and centers around me being sick, this is not what I would want for anyone. I am so sad that I made the decision to get this vaccination, please don't make the same mistake.

Nina said...

The first post to this blog refers to the new book, The HPV Vaccine Controversary. I wonder why the comment author, Shobha, didn't mention that she is the book's author as well.

Anonymous said...

Can men get this vaccine?

Kristin Johns said...

Nina, at the time that comment popped up it was to be found on virtually every blog and news report I looked at--I guess everyone's into marketing! I have to admit that I'd have preferred her to say, hey, I wrote this book...check it out.

Kristin Johns said...

to Anon:

The FDA is still considering approval of Gardasil for men, pending the conclusion of a large trial, although recent studies show that it works as well in men as in women.

Although men (obviously) can't get cervical cancer they can (just as obviously) get penile, anal, and tonsillar cancers, plus genital warts, all thought to be caused at least in part by HPV, and they can also pass on HPV to partners, particularly if they're uncircumcised. Gay men are extremely anxious for approval to be granted, as I understand it. I believe you can sometimes get the shots "off license."

Men will, of course, also be prey to the same side-effects and the same issues of replacement diseases, potential loss of natural immunity, etc.

IMO everyone, both male and female, should take HPV seriously and research their options, including Gardasilif they are comfortable with it.

Anonymous said...

my daughter received her 3rd gardasil shot in May 08 by Oct 08 chest pains, cold sensitivity, ear ring by feb 09 thyroid inflammation, weight loss, hair loss, muscle aches , twitchs, june 09 chronic bladder irritation added to above, dec 10 still all of above on daily basis, dropped out college extreme fatigue,mood swings, weight loss, hair loss , lower back/leg pain constantly, bladder irritation constant for 2 years, been to 24 specialist,mris, ct, xrays, ultrasounds, cytoscopy,laproscopic surgery , too many blood test to count all normal, neurologist, normal results.her life before was healthy active 18 year old , has lost her 19 and 20 year life,never give this vaccine, its not worth the risk

Anonymous said...

I was at a screening of a new documentary which discusses the different view points of the Gardasil Vaccine, it is called "The Greater Good" Director is Leslie Manoochian. I think its worth watching for anyone out there that is considering the pros and cons of the vaccine.

Anonymous said...

I received the gardisal shot when I was 16 and have had no issues with it. Its just like any other shot except it made my arm super sore for a couple of days but that's about it. I do recommend it, but everyone reacts to things differently. I have never had a problem.

Anonymous said...

I Had My Last Of The Three Shots And As Far As I Kno There Has Been No Problems Because Of It. Ive Had Two Paps Since Having The Shot And Im Hpv Free. I Approve Of This Shot.

larz said...

I got the sequence administered as a 26-year-old male with immunodeficiency. I did it because it was a free way to protect girls I love from cancer. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Get the shots. Definitely. HPV, which can lead to several types of cancer, is so scary because it is so common, asymptomatic (or symptoms can lay dormant for many years), and you can get it without having sex (spread through skin to skin contact). I know you all know all this, but everything that has been learned in the years since this article was written makes me feel the need to URGE all young women, and men if they so choose, to please get this vaccine.

Mine were just like getting any other shot. Extreme side effects are very, very rare (less than 1 in 10,000). The benefits infinitely outweigh the risks. Dr. Oz's HPV episode airing in October 2012 is incredibly informative, watch it!

Anonymous said...

Young girls should not be given these shots. They are usually forced to by their parents. They should be able to make the decision for themselves in the future. I was forced into getting one as a young pre-teen and now in my 20's I am not so sure its safe to get.

Anonymous said...

I got the shot in 2007 at age 21. More than 6 years later, I'm continuously battling a serious autoimmune disease. It's stolen my youth away from me. I finally reviewed all of my (expensive) medical bills and records to find the first sign of my auto-immune symptoms... 2 weeks after my first gardasil shot. Not 100% sure, but it seems fairly obvious, no?

DO NOT GET THE SHOT. PLEASE!
Use condoms, remain abstinent, whatever it takes! Don't let them tell you that you have only two choices: a) get the vaccine, or b) get cancer. It's a scare tactic.

I wish I hadn't let the doctor push this vaccine on me. I was in a stable relationship with my (now) husband, and the shot was completely pointless. It's caused me years of suffering for no good reason - thank god I have the support of my loved ones or it would have completely ruined my life.

Anonymous said...

For the person who suggested condum use, that is great, but condoms do not fully protect against the HPV virus.