Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Assessing the Side Effects of the Gardasil Vaccine

While I was trying to decipher the possible risk of triggering an autoimmune disease in my kids with a dose or two of Gardasil (see previous post), I got this question stuck in my head. What’s the window? When can you say something could realistically be an adverse event or side effect caused by a vaccine, and when do you toss it back out into the sea of chance?

I got my answer. Six weeks. Unless you’re enrolled in a long-term study, of course—not that any study of Gardasil has thus far been all that lengthy—or unless a pattern becomes truly unmistakable.

So if you drop dead the minute you get a shot, well hot damn, it’s an adverse event. But if you slowly develop rheumatoid arthritis, and get diagnosed a couple of years later, it’s just, well damn. And didn’t your grandma have that anyway? (Let’s not worry about the predisposition/trigger thing.)

Then again, if you drop dead from a blood clot a day after you get Gardasil, and you’re on birth control, well, maybe the CDC will get suspicious and start casting the fish eye over all the other VAERS reports of young healthy women suddenly popping clots. But seven weeks later, definitely blame it on the Pill as a known side-effect, or so I’m told.

And that’s fair enough. At a time when the internet’s being constantly churned by conspiracy theorists and shyster and not-so-shyster lawyers looking to bring multi-million dollar lawsuits, it’s not unreasonable to say, look, we need to be sure that the problem was caused by Vaccine X; we can’t be wandering off into blame-everything-on-it land. And while I do believe that profits play a big role in drug and vaccine development and marketing, I also know that many researchers out there are truly dedicated to “fixing” diseases.

But it reminds me of my mother-in-law laughing at me for buying organic milk. “WE never bothered about any of that nonsense,” she snickered.

And because I can occasionally be kind, I only thought about replying “sure, and you’ve had cancer three times”.

I suspect that any intelligent person could look at Gardasil in isolation and say, as does the CDC, hey, statistically we’re not seeing any more cases of (fill in the blank) than we might reasonably expect in the population.

What I’m wondering is, why do we look at everything in isolation? Isn’t there a pretty strong chance that vaccines could have a cumulative effect as we pile them on? I mean, all I got when I was a kid was the smallpox and oral polio vaccines; for the rest, I just got the disease and got over it. Then we added vaccines against rubella et al; then we got to ditch small pox (yay!) but added a cornucopia of mandatory vaccines. Suddenly hepatitis B was mandatory, wait, add chicken pox, and Prevnar, And what’s that meningitis one for adolescents? Oh, and here’s Gardasil. That’s a good idea. Add Gardasil to the list of recommended vaccines, quick!

That’s an awful lot of foreign bodies and adjuvants zooming into our kids’ systems, along with all the other ingredients of our daily chemical soup slurp.

I wonder about another thing, too. Like all—ahem—midcentury moderns, I vividly remember getting that ugly smallpox vaccine. And wiping out smallpox was undoubtedly a great triumph. But did that vaccine permanently alter the genetic material I passed onto my kids? Will my grandchildren and yours pay a price for generations of multiple vaccines as they’re plagued by ever-rising rates of puzzling auto-immune diseases that can’t specifically be tied to any one cause? Will it be like the statin-diabetes connection, where you fix one thing only to see another—maybe—develop on the cure’s back? Or are all vaccines totally benign?

I honestly don’t know. I’m just curious here, and I’m not an anti-science or anti-medicine nut. But what worries me is that I don’t believe anyone else knows how this all adds up, either.

My only answer, personally, is to do the best I can without getting crazy. So MMR and polio, yes, particularly since we travel overseas, but the chicken pox vaccine seemed unnecessary and my kids survived the disease quite happily. I think Gardasil is unnecessary, too, as long as my daughters get regular check-ups; although I could change my mind if evidence to the contrary becomes clear. So far it’s going in the other direction. But I’ll keep looking.

What about you? Do you think that every vaccination that comes down the pike is good, or do you pick and choose?


Anonymous said...

No but I think you would be a fool NOT to allow your daughter to get gardasil-she could be a virgin when she gets married someday and contract the virus from her husband who could have gotten it and never knew he had it given the strains that cause cancer are mostly asymptomatic-why on earth would even allow there to be a chance for her to become exposed to a virus that can cause CANCER-I am not for all vaccinations-Hep B, chicken pox, etc-not as common as HPV and do not necessarily cause CANCER-

Anonymous said...

Hpv doesn't necessarily cause cancer either, in fact it mostly doesn't, but if you catch any cancer that does develop it is easily cured. The key is getting regular exams. You have to get those anyway because a) Gardasil only zaps the viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancers and b) your doc is looking for other stuff too. so you'd be an idiot not to go for Pap smears. So why bother with gardasil? It's expensive and new so we don't know much about side effects.

I did get the hep b shot but not gardasil or chicken pox.

Anonymous said...

Ummm yes it is expensive but if you have insurance it is covered 100%-I paid nothing and about 20 other women I know who got it paid nothing but maybe a co-pay. Have you ever had abnormal paps and the process of getting HPV cleared from you when you do have it-have you ever had your cervix snipped so much that you were unlikely to be able to have children-have you ever had a hysterectomy from having HPV that ate away at your reporductive system? I have friends that have gone through DEVASTATING things b/c of HPV and BOTH of them have had a terrible time getting pregnant. I AGREE 100% that routine pap smears are imperative to women's health but I also think that why on earth would you not protect yourself ESPECIALLY if you have insurance that covers it-as far as the side effects it has been studied over 6 years-FDA would not approve and recommend it to be a ROUTINE vaccine if they did not feel it was safe-have you read the side effects for things that have been out for years-TYLENOL for example????

Anonymous said...

I don't get your logic. You're complaining about side effects from Tylenol which has been out for years, but you're OK with gardasil which has only been tested for 6 years?

The FDA isn't foolproof. Look at Vioxx.

I think FDA approval is just the starting point, then you have to watch and wait unless you have an urgent need. I am very worried about using my kids as guinea pigs. If you want to do it, we'll hope you do fine and wait to see what your experience is.

It's like, I'm on asthma drugs which I hate and have side effects, although right now, they're saving my life. But if I can use my experiences to help someone stay off the route I took, great.

By the way, have you ever thought about all the other strains of hpv that gardasil doesn't get?

Anonymous said...

YES I HAVE thought about the strains gardasil does not get but given it covers 70% of cancerous and 90% of strains that cause dysplasia and warts I will take my chances with it-You said it yourself-everything has side effects-ie your asthma med-let me ask-which one is it-how long has it been on market-how long was it studied? How long is long enough to wait to decide if it is something you should do to protect yourself or a loved one. As for Vioxx-the FDA didnt want to pull that off market-read the facts-they wanted it to stay on market with a black box warning (do you even know what that is?). MERCK choose to pull that off market NOT the FDA. If you asthma med only worked 50 % of the time would you take the chance on it giving the side effects- Gardasil has been PROVEN to work 100% of the time in girls who have NEVER been exposed to the strains that are in the vaccine-i would take my chances!

Anonymous said...

How long for? How long does Gardasil last? Will it, with its 70% protection, last for as long as you, or my girls, are sexually active?

If I'd researched before I started on the asthma drugs, I would have gone a whole different route. I am paying every day for my ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Gardasil has been studied over 6 years now and at this point there is nothing showing that the immune levels are going down. As with ANYTHING when it comes to medicine, it has to continue to be studied to see how long it last. There may be a day when you have to get a booster-look at Tetanus shots, but at this time we just dont know. Cdc recommends you get one Tetanus shot. every 10 years. Look at Flu vaccine, chickenbox vaccine, etc-you have to get boosters at some point to build immmunity again. the adjuvant in Gardasil has been proven safe and effective for YEARS. AGain-I will take my chances that I may have to wait and see if I need a booster someday or that my immunity may wane after years after getting Gardasil-How long does cancer last? Not long if it gets you right.

Anonymous said...

Good for you.

Me, I just look at pros and cons. When I see that 95% of hpv cases clear up by themselves, and anything that does turn into cancer (usually when a woman is in her 40s or older because it's so slow growing) can be fixed quite easily, I can't see much in the way of pros.

On the con side, there's some (though small) risk of triggering some kind of autoimmune disease and several other nasty side-effects. I can't say that they seem to be massive risks, but they're there.

It's also not 100% effective against all the strains of HPV that can cause cancer, and I've read a lot (including here) about replacement disease risks.

True dat about the booster shots for tetanus etc. and I do get them regularly. On the other hand I knew ahead of time I'd need them and what they would entail; and the benefits far outweigh the risks for me for several reasons.

Maybe I'm just more cautious than you, probably because of my experience with asthma. I don't just accept whatever's handed out anymore; I take responsibility for my own health and I look very carefully at other people's experiences as well as at my own and the drug information pamphlets.

Anonymous said...

Well, I fell for all the hype that surrounded the vaccine. Now daughters are paying the cost. My oldest fell ill within a couple weeks of her first shot. We didn't make the connection of her ill health at that time to the shot. She was a vibrant 21 year old that had always excelled in school. After the first shot she could not concentrate and had severe fatigue. By the time she received the second shot she could barely get out of bed in the morning and struggled to make it through the day. (remember that we didn't make the connetion of her ill health to the vaccine at that time.) She received the third shot in February of 2008 and by that time the side effects were beginning to be severe. All durng this time we would go to the doctor and report what was happening to her and the doctor would do tests, but nothing would show up. Her face would swell up, she had numbness in her hands and feet and then other times there would be a tingle sensation in her limbs or entire side of the body. She had exteme brain fog, joints that would pop and crack, eye pain. The list goes on and on. The doctors could never find what was wrong and when we recently got her medical records several doctors reported that it was basically in her head and imagined. One doctor said that i was very controlling because I insisted that there was something wrong with my daughter and that the doctors were missing it. By April of 2008 I walked into her room and found her experiencing a seizure. She had probably been having seizures in her sleep for months and we had not witnessed them. It has been over a year since her last shot and she is still experiencing side effects. Her face still swells for no reason and she has brain fog still. Her grades are improving and her seizures are controlled with medication.

My younger daughter has been experiencing severe stomach pain that can not be diagnosed. And after having normal pap tests she is now all the sudden showing abnormal tests.

Please, please.... investigate this vaccine before giving it to your daughters. It has been a rough year, but we still have faired much better than many people.

No we can't prove it was the vaccine. That is just the problem. Nnthing can be proved. They have a license to reap havoc on the health of our young girls. I get very angry when I think that I trusted my doctor. But then again, it is the governments fault for allowing this vaccine on the market without long term testing.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked when my grand daugther was diagnosed with lupus in September. She went from acne ,headache to joint pain ,to loin pain ,to protein in the urine .It is a disgrace that the government and the phaarmaceutical companies join to destroy the young for the sake of wealth. The government pushed Gardasil vaccine.

Gabrielle said...

Gardasil shots in early 2010 and diagnosis of RA 6 months later... I was only 23years old at the time. I lost my job and haven't worked since 11/11