Overestimating benefits of HPV vaccines could lead to increased risks

A new study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine indicates girls who receive HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix may overestimate the amount of protection the drug offers. According to the report, funded by the National Institutes of Health, some girls think they no longer have to practice safe sex after receiving the vaccination, or that they are protected from all types of HPV or protected from HPV indefinitely. In fact, vaccines such as Gardasil only protect against four of hundreds of types of HPV, and the vaccine’s effectiveness diminishes after about five to seven years.

Additionally, the U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have thousands of reports filed by patients that indicate the drug could be linked to serious side effects. While the most commonly reported side effects are minor, such as swelling or redness at the injection site, fainting and nausea, some reports reflect a more dire outcome.

Patients have reported the development of severe adverse side effects after receiving the drug, including Guilliane Barre syndrome, Lupus, seizures, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. There also have been 92 reports of deaths among girls who received the Gardasil vaccine. While these serious adverse events have not been conclusively linked to Gardasil, many researchers say the drug calls for more testing and stronger warnings.

In fact, one of the researchers who led the development of two HPV vaccines, Dr. Diane Harper, told an audience of medical professionals in 2009 that she feels the vaccine is largely unnecessary, and that it has never been fully tested on females under the age of 15. She pointed out that the HPV virus is the most common sexually transmitted virus, and that most HPV infections are cleared naturally by the body’s immune system without any harmful effect.

Dr. Harper also pointed out that any abnormalities in the cervix that may be caused by HPV can be easily detected and treated with regular Pap tests.

If the results of the recent NIH study hold true, however, adolescent girls who feel protected will have less concern about contracting HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and may use less caution in protecting themselves or seeking regular preventative treatment.

Source: Reuters