Why New Studies of the HPV (Gardasil) Vaccine Give Reason for Pause

In 2006 the Gardasil vaccine was developed to prevent the contraction of certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that is associated with cervical, vaginal and various other types of cancers affecting both males and females. Since then, you’ve likely seen the company’s numerous TV commercials and print advertisements, or read about its controversial popularity in the news. Why did this particular vaccine gain so much attention? In part, because of the virus it targets. The presence of HPV is associated with an individual’s chance of developing cancer, and many were interested in a vaccination that could reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Gardasil requires three injections over the course of six months to protect against four different types of HPV. The CDC currently recommends that both boys and girls ages 11 or 12 receive this series of injections, although injections can technically be administered to those between the ages of 9 and 26.Though backed by a federal health organization, Gardasil has not been met without its share of skepticism by parents concerned about the vaccine’s safety and its necessity. The truth is that 80 percent of women will contract HPV in their lifetime, and in 98% of these cases, the HPV infection will not lead to cancer and will clear on its own. This remaining 2% risk for cancer has prompted some to wonder: do the potential risks of vaccination supersede the risks of HPV?

To shed further light upon this ongoing debate, Dr. Mark Geier and Mr. David Geier recently explored the likelihood of potential side effects of the Gardasil HPV vaccine, specifically, a potential relationship between Gardasil and autoimmune adverse events. In their 2014 paper, “A Case-Control Study of Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine-Associated Autoimmune Adverse Effects,” Mark and David Geier relied on the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System database, which, receives reports of vaccine-associated adverse. The Geiers reviewed the autoimmune outcomes of women aged 18-39 who had reports filed in the database, with the outcomes of gastroenteritis, arthritis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, thrombocytopenia, systemic lupus erythematosus, alopecia and various central nervous system conditions, and evaluated how many were exposed the HPV4 vaccine, Gardasil, in comparison to other vaccines.

After statistical analyses, the results demonstrated a discernable association between women who received the Gardasil vaccination and the presence of the autoimmune outcomes gastroenteritis, arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, alopecia, and central nervous system conditions. There was no association proven between the presence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome or thrombocytopenia and women exposed to the Gardasil vaccine. While not all autoimmune outcomes look to be related to the Gardasil vaccinations, the Geiers’ results clearly demonstrate a significant association between at least 5 specific autoimmune outcomes that can dramatically impact an individual’s health and well-being.

The Geiers have once again shown that there is reason to pause at findings presented in vaccine research, in this case those that demonstrate a relationship between Gardasil exposure and a range of autoimmune outcomes. While these results support previous research that identified a relationship between adverse effects and the Gardisal vaccine, the Geiers believe that additional research is also necessary to expand understanding of the risks Gardisal vaccines can pose. By studying various other population samples based on other characteristics aside from age, such as race or health background, the Geiers hope that a more comprehensive picture of the ways in which individuals can be impacted by the Gardasil vaccine can soon be brought to light.

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