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HPV Vaccine Controversy

Mar 04, 2016

HPV (genital human papillomavirus) is among the most common sexually transmitted virus in the US. In most cases, the infection causes no symptoms, and even when occurs they fade away on their own. However, HPV is an issue of concern because it causes cervical cancer. 10,000 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and 3700 die as a result. The HPV vaccine contains an inactivated HPV virus, and it protects receivers against four main types of HPV. The two types of this vaccine are relatively new: the FDA approved Cervarix in 2009 and Gardasil in 2006. For this reason, there has been a lot of HPV vaccine controversy surrounding whether or not women, especially young girls should get vaccinated.

Why Is HPV Vaccine Recommended?


The CDC recommends all boys and girls between the ages of 11-12 getting the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer has been reduced by over 2/3 thanks to the widespread of the Gardasil or Cervarix vaccine. The vaccines are effective in the prevention of 4 shared HPV types, that is, 6, 11, 16 and 18. In addition, Gardasil 9 is 97% effective in protection against vulvar, cervical and vaginal disease caused by the additional 5 HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58). Prevention against targeted HPV types can last for a minimum of 8 and 9 years for Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines respectively. Recent data has shown that from 2007 to 2010, infections that the HPV vaccine protects against decreased by 56% compared to 4 years prior to the introduction of the vaccine in America. This is a remarkable improvement bearing in mind that only 1/3 of girls aged 13-17 received the recommended 3 doses.

Gardasil was used on men in a clinical trial, and it was reported that it prevented anal cell changes that result from persistent genital warts and infections. A clinical trial of Cervarix done on women found that the vaccine can prevent persistent HPV 18 and 16 infections in the oral cavity and anus.


Before licensing by the FDA, Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9 went through years of thorough safety testing. Gardasil 9 underwent clinical studies with more than 15,000 men and women; Gardasil went through clinical trials with 29,000+ males and females, and Cervarix underwent the same with 30,000 females. Despite the HPV vaccine controversy, research done before and after licensing of the vaccines showed that they are safe.

Just like other vaccines, the FDA and CDC continue to monitor the safety of the HPV vaccines after licensing. Any issues found with these vaccines are reported to the public, healthcare providers and health officials. Like all other vaccines and drugs, HPV vaccines have side effects that include redness and pain where the shot was administered, fainting, dizziness, headache and nausea.

Concerns Raised Against HPV Vaccine

1. Not really necessary

It has been reported that the vaccine is being oversold. The reason for this is that only about 5% of women with HPV actually end up with cervical cancer. Instead of being vaccinated, pap smears are more effective and efficient in prevention of cervical cancer. Also, the vaccine is only capable of protecting you for 4-5 years though scientists are hoping to extend that to 10 years or more. Nonetheless, it is highly likely that a girl vaccinated at 11 years old will need a booster shot in her sexually active years.

2. Adverse side effects

The main HPV vaccine controversy lies in its side effects. A rare neurological disorder called Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALSkilled 2 children after receiving the vaccine. More than 35,000 adverse reactions including 200 deaths had been reported to the American government by mid-March 2015. The Gardasil vaccine is associated with health problems such as immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. This means that a component of the vaccine causes the immune system to react in a dangerous way - in some cases fatal. The HPV vaccine has been associated with immune and nervous system disorders in girls and young women by a growing body of medical literature.

3. Too expensive

Another HPV vaccine controversy is its price. The complete dose of 3 shots is likely to cost $300 or more, and insurance will not always cover this cost.

Some Parents’ Opinions

I am planning to take my 11-year-old daughter for a shot. With all the controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, I spoke to her pediatrician and other moms about it and also looked it up online. I am convinced the benefits outweigh the risks. If there is any chance of reducing cancer, why not go for it. However, I will wait till she is 13 when boys are part of her life.

My daughter has been experiencing some changes after she got the Gardasil vaccine. I am not entirely sure if this is because of the shot. She was a star pupil and an athlete, nowadays she is ever fatigued, achy and her menstrual cycle has become irregular. My daughter does not complain, but I can tell she is not herself. I have heard theories that the vaccine might have triggered an autoimmune response. I am ever on the phone with doctors trying to understand what is happening. My family plans on filing a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the Department of Health. I am not against the vaccine since I have seen other girls get it and they are okay. I just want it off the market until it is fully looked into to avoid such cases.