Susie from Mosman, New South Wales, Australia asked:

Does the Gardasil vaccine do more harm than good?

I watched a video online discussing the harmful effects of the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil. Is any of it true?

Our answer

Current evidence indicates the two vaccines developed to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil and Cervarix, are effective and safe to use. The HPV vaccines have been approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and overseas by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. Safety is continually assessed and monitored, and information regularly reviewed by expert advisory groups. There are over 600 new cases of cervical cancer and around 150 deaths every year in Australia. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, and both Gardasil and Cervarix have been shown to prevent infection with the two strains of HPV associated with 70% of cervical cancers. HPV also causes genital warts and some cancers inside the mouth, throat and genital tract. Although no vaccine is completely without side-effects, the great majority of events have been mild and common, for example temporary soreness, swelling and redness at the site of the injection. Many of the reported events (such as headache, or feeling dizzy or unwell) may be equally common in people of the same age who have not received the vaccine. Around 175 million doses of the vaccines have been administered worldwide. When dealing with such large numbers, some serious events can be expected within days or hours of vaccination by chance alone and unrelated to vaccination. There have been some reports of neurological symptoms similar to those present with multiple sclerosis, however these reports have been investigated by an independent panel of medical experts in Australia, which found no proof of a link to Gardasil. The number of these events is no more than would be expected by chance. Based on doses distributed in Australia, the current estimated risk of severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, is 2.6 in a million risk, which is why practitioners giving the vaccine have the necessary medical equipment and drugs on site. Contrary to some claims, no deaths have been linked to Gardasil in Australia, the US or Europe. Recently, the World Health Organisation reviewed the global information and concluded that ?The Committee continues to be reassured by the safety profile of the available products.? The HPV vaccine is not a replacement for regular pap smears. Women between the ages of 18 and 70 are still advised to visit their GP for a free Pap test every two years, whether or not they have been vaccinated.

This page was last updated on: July 9, 2014

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