All it would take is for neurologists to ask young female patients—and soon, young men too—a simple question.
“You have symptoms of ALS. Did you have the Gardasil vaccination?”
That’s the only way that we’re going to eventually find out whether the unusually rapid-onset ALS-like paralysis that killed Jenny Tetlock and Whitney Baird was indeed related to their recent vaccinations with Gardasil.
Up until now, no-one’s been asking. Most parents take routine vaccinations for granted and don’t think to bring it up. Merck and the FDA insist there’s no link. But at the 134th meeting of the American Neurological Association, Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, MD, director of the ALS Center at University of California San Francisco Medical Center, was asking.
Jenny Tetlock died from a neurological disease, mediated by immune responses, which led to extensive damage in her spinal cord. Lomen-Hoerth noted the unusual inflammation in Jenny’s spine and announced that she and her team are planning to study girls with ALS, both those who got the vaccination and those who didn’t, to compare symptoms and pathological features.
Hopefully, neurologists will now start asking about Gardasil—so simple!—and perhaps even comb through the records of any current and deceased patients with juvenile ALS, and then send the information on to Lomen-Hoerth. It won't just be Jenny's parents who are saying, look, maybe there's no connection, but we want to know for sure.
And it’s not at all irrational to ask that question. Right now, there’s no causal link established between Gardasil and ALS, and two cases among millions of girls safely inoculated with the HPV vaccine means zip. However, given the unusual spinal inflammation (not a hallmark of ALS) and Jenny and Whitney’s shared history of a childhood autoimmune skin disorder that might have made them more vulnerable; given that periods of paralysis have marked mystery post-Gardasil medical conditions in a number of girls—given all that, there’s good reason to ask the question seriously.