Isabel Shaw

Guest Column

More information, study

is necessary on Gardasil

The editorial “Vaccine a Question of Health, Not Morality” (Tri-Town News, Feb. 22, 2007) missed the mark. This is exactly the type of editorial the drug companies hoped for: emphasizing the issue of morality – which is easy to dismiss – instead of focusing on the fact that this vaccine has not had any long-term studies, is possibly ineffective, and, in the end, may do more harm than good.

As a parent, I strongly believe that I have the right to be the primary decision-maker regarding my daughter’s health. And the Gardasil vaccine is a prime example of why, as parents, we must ask questions, do our research and speak out to protect our children.

The Gardasil vaccine was only studied for approximately 31/2 years and the long-term effectiveness of this vaccine has yet to be determined. From Gardasil’s product insert: “The duration of immunity following a complete schedule of immunization with Gardasil has not been established.”

Fewer than 1,200 girls under age 16 were studied in pre-licensure trials. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) indicated that out of the 385 individual Gardasil adverse event reports during the last six months of 2006, two-thirds required additional medical care. Adverse reports include children collapsing after receiving the vaccine, as well as recipients experiencing paralysis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, dizziness, vomiting, rash, syncope, seizures and headache to name a few.

Because Gardasil was never tested with any vaccines other than hepatitis B and Merck has not published any safety data for simultaneous vaccinations, the young girls receiving Gardasil with other vaccines today are basically human guinea pigs. Twenty-five percent of the aforementioned adverse reports were for young girls who received the vaccine in combination with one of the more than 18 vaccines that Merck did not include in safety tests.

According to Vicky Debold, R.N., Ph.D., NVIC health policy analyst, “Some of these girls are being injured when they collapse after getting the vaccine and others are complaining of neurological symptoms. To avoid unnecessary injuries, girls should be vaccinated lying down, not be left unattended, and probably should not walk or drive themselves home after they are vaccinated.” Is this what we want for our children?

There is a VAERS report of Gardasil causing the very disease it is meant to prevent. HPV [human papillomavirus] infection, genital warts and cervical lesions developed after Gardasil vaccinations. Merck’s clinical trial data indicated that there may be the potential for Gardasil to enhance cervical disease in subjects who had evidence of infection prior to vaccination but as unbelievable as it may sound, girls and women are not routinely tested before administration of Gardasil.

Merck’s own clinical studies revealed that test subjects had serious adverse events from Gardasil such as gastroenteritis, headache, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, asthma, bronchospasm and arthritis.

How many girls experiencing a bad reaction today will wind up with long-term neurological or immune system disorders later? How will the vaccine affect fertility, other cancers, or possibly damage these young girls’ genes? Merck admits in its product insert that this has not been studied. Young girls entering puberty should not be used as Merck’s test subjects.

Fifty years ago when the pharmaceutical industry was in its infancy, perhaps their primary concern was “curing” disease. But it does not take much effort to see that today, profits are the primary goal. Vaccines are a multibillion-dollar business, and promoting their usage (and a myriad of other drugs as well) is paramount. And at $400 to $900 per child for the Gardasil vaccination series, it is easy to see why they are so eager for mass vaccination. It took years for thalidomide and Vioxx (also a Merck product) to demonstrate their most negative side effects.

And yes, schools may make health-related decisions for the protection of all of the students and faculty while they are at school. If Johnny gets whooping cough or Tammy gets the measles, his or her classmates and teachers are at risk. But this vaccine – and the sexually transmitted diseases it may or may not protect kids from – does not fall into that category. This is not a school issue. The decision to vaccinate or not should rest squarely on the shoulders of the parents and the girls themselves.

Education is the key. My 13-year-old daughter knows what causes sexually transmitted diseases and has decided that abstinence, not a risky vaccine, will be her choice. She may opt for a vaccine at some time in the future if its safety is proven. But for now, she has made an informed decision – on many levels – about her body, one of many she will have to make in her lifetime. And one that neither the government, the drug companies, nor the school system have the right to make for her.

Isabel Shaw is a resident of Marlboro.