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What we know about the cervical cancer vaccine (Gardasil) - 2 years later

The US Centers for Disease Control & the CBC have new updates about the controversial cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil. At the time of widespread implementation by public health authorities, many health care practitioners voiced concerns about the rush to vaccinate young girls as they felt that there was too little data to warrant such a move. Two years worth of data have now been collected and the data looks promising. Of course, we'll know more when even longer time horizons are gathered and analyzed. In science and medicine, I've found that a clear picture for adverse effects and safety develops when you look at long term data. Also, the public should know that adverse reporting of vaccines & drugs is done on a voluntary basis. There is no system in place to actually follow-up with patients after they have received a vaccine or started on a new drug regiment. It is usually at the discretion of a health care practitioner to report to the ministry of health any side effects which they may have spotted. Therefore, as a caveat, such data does not give us a complete picture.

Nonetheless, I would say from a public health perspective that the number of adverse reactions reported is minimal, unless of course you're one of those people who incurred a severe reaction from this vaccine.

In the US, 2.2 million doses of Gardasil was distributed in 2006 and 11.3 million in 2007. In all, 7802 adverse events were reported between June 2006 and April 2008. Seven percent of those who reported adverse events had serious side effects - the worse being 31 reported cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome, a condition that usually results in temporary paralysis and is often triggered by a vaccine injection. Fifteen deaths were reported to the FDA, and ten were confirmed. However, the CDC says none of the ten were linked to the vaccine. The seven percent of serious side effects is apparently half the average of what is normally seen with vaccines. Of course, over the long term, these statistics can change, but the results are promising thus far.

Gardasil was designed to protect women from four strains of Human Papillomavirus - types 6, 11, 16 & 18 - which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases. HPV is transmitted through sexual contact and is reported to infect up to half of all sexually active women between 18 and 22. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for young women.

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