Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Is Gardasil (HPV Vaccine) Safe?

Is Gardasil Safe?

Dear Dr. Walt,

I just saw a post on Facebook that Gardasil is killing some youngsters and causing autoimmune disease in many others. I know Facebook isn’t exactly a repository of authoritative scientific data, but it did arouse my curiosity because I have heard the same rumors again and again over the years. What are your thoughts about this?

—Apprehensive in Alabama

Dear Worried,

Gardasil is an FDA approved vaccine that protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), an umbrella term for several viruses spread by intimate contact that can lead to cervical cancer and other deadly cancers. It is recommended by every reputable medical organization in the U.S. 

Nevertheless, antivaccine websites and antivaccine zealots continue to circulate unfounded stories about the vaccine. One of the most recent was investigated by Snopes.com, which states: “In late February 2018, an article posted to the ‘alternative health’ blog HealthNutNews.com led readers to believe that the vice president of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had ‘blown the whistle’ on Gardasil. … The headline on the story cautions that the vaccine is ‘deadly’.”

After investigating, Snopes commented, “The article is a misleading and confusing hodgepodge of conflicting information, including quotes from medical professionals taken out of context and purposely mischaracterized.”

Other prominent antivaccine websites promote truly heartbreaking stories of illnesses and deaths that they say are a direct result of the Gardasil vaccine, but the links to Gardasil “are just speculation,” according to Snopes.

What’s the actual risk of a death or autoimmune disease being caused by the vaccine? According to the experts, it’s no more, and likely less than 1–2 cases per every 100,000 vaccinated people.

And any potential risk would need to be weighed against the much higher risk of developing cervical cancer or other cancers from the HPV virus. These risks are dramatically greater than developing an autoimmune disorder from the HPV vaccine.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the developing world and is responsible for almost 260,000 deaths each year. Research consistently shows that HPV vaccination successfully and dramatically reduces the incidence of cervical cancer-causing HPV infections, likely saving the lives of many women.

So, what’s the bottom line? According to the experts at Mayo Clinic, “The HPV vaccine is a safe, effective anti-cancer vaccine that can protect a child’s health long-term and prevent a number of life-threatening cancers. Mayo Clinic strongly recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys.” So do I.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2019. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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