Reader Question: I heard that a woman was paralyzed after getting the HPV vaccine. Should I tell my daughter not to get it?
My professional opinion is that the vaccine has a good track record of safety, and I still wholeheartedly recommend it because it prevents cervical cancer—a disease that kills 10 American women every day. You should be aware that before the vaccine was FDA-approved, researchers conducted clinical trials on more than 25,000 women, and more than 26 million doses of the vaccine (Gardasil) have been administered worldwide.
So why the uproar? Last week, the sad story of a young woman with paralysis made headlines; her parents believe that the onset of her degenerative muscle disease was brought on by Gardasil. My heart goes out to this young woman and her family, but we really don't know if the vaccine had anything to do with her condition. I ed Merck, the company that makes Gardasil, and they told me "no safety issue related to the vaccine has been identified. These types of events are events that could also be seen in the general population, even in the absence of vaccination."
All suspected adverse reactions should be reported to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (vaers.hhs.gov) for full investigation, and I'm sure that this complaint will be thoroughly reviewed. Again, my heart goes out to this young woman and her family and I hope she gets better. But I hope that her story doesn't discourage other young women from getting this lifesaving vaccine.
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