Gardasil – the HPV vaccine, remains shrouded in controversy, for reasons I can’t fathom. I am a gynecologist. I’m the doctor who does the pap smears and calls with bad news: there’s an abnormality, caused by having sex, that could lead to cancer. Next comes fear, regrets, gynecologic procedures or surgery, sometimes a cancer diagnosis, and long-term follow-up care… and most of this could be avoided – with the effective and safe vaccine against HPV we already have.
Modern medicine has created wonderful opportunities for better health, but the two most important factors in lowering rates of death and disease might be surprising: better sanitation, and vaccines. The Black Death, Polio, The Plague – responsible for untold suffering and millions of deaths, are gone. Babies dying from whooping cough, measles, and Rubella are a thing of the past. All thanks to better sanitation and to vaccines.
Some have associated vaccines with autism. This was based on a single falsified study wherein the researcher who published it, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, subsequently lost his credentials. Look it up – it’s a sad story, and it resulted in a generation of health care consumers who look at the vaccine industry with skepticism and mistrust.
Gardasil is an amazingly effective vaccine that protects against the four most common strains of HPV: types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Of the two dozen or so strains that affect the genitals, these four account for 70% of cervical cancer and 90% of genital warts. Which we can prevent. Today. Coming down the road is a new vaccine which will protect against 9 strains of HPV, but as this is still several years away, it still makes sense to get Gardasil today.
The three injections are given over 6 months. Originally approved for girls between ages 9 – 26, it is now also approved for women through age 44 and for boys ages 9 – 26 as well. Some people use Gardasil off-label for non-approved ages who intend to have at least more sexual partner in their life. What’s the risk of contracting HPV? 25% of the population at any one moment carries it – that’s one in four dates! And 80% of us will contract HPV during our lives.
The most common side effects from the vaccine are: injection-site reactions, dizziness, syncope (fainting), nausea, and headache. Serious adverse events attributable to the vaccine are exceedingly rare. Beware of scary pseudoscience websites – there are a hundred of them out there for every site with solid, sound, well-researched information. Fear mongers rule on the web – be careful where you tread!
According to the CDC, “Approximately 79 million Americans are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), and approximately 14 million people will become newly infected each year. Some HPV types can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer among women, penile cancer among men, and anal and some oropharyngeal cancers among both men and women. Other HPV types can cause genital warts among both sexes. Each year in the United States an estimated 26,000 new cancers attributable to HPV occur, 18,000 among females (of which 11,500 are cervical cancer) and 8,000 among males (of which 5,900 are oropharyngeal cancers).” Read more here: