/>I sat at a picnic table listening to various mothers discussing their
hectic schedules trying to keep up with teenage daughters, all on the
same sports team. When one mother told of squeezing in an appointment
that morning to get her daughter the HPV shot that her doctor
recommended, the conversation turned to the necessity to "protect" their
girls in such troubling times. I stayed quiet, hoping to learn the
values guiding these parents' decisions. Predictably, they had not
thought through the issues, nor did they know the facts.
Those mothers were merely following doctors' recommendations and that of
all the experts. Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, was approved in 2006 by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration for females as young as nine and up to
age 26. It has been marketed as a protection against four types of the
human papillomavirus (HPV). Merck, the company that makes Gardasil,
claims that the drug will protect against two types of HPV that cause 70
percent of cervical cancers and two types that cause 90 percent of
genital warts. Every federal health authority recommends the shots and,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about
a quarter of the nation's 13-17 year olds have received the
immunizations. The vaccine is on the CDC's vaccine schedule for 11- and
12-year-old girls, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it.
Even so, some physicians remain wary of the trend to give young children
a new, largely untried drug. A study in a journal of the American
Association for Cancer Research revealed that about half of the doctors
in a survey of over a thousand physicians in Texas did not routinely
recommend Gardasil for their pre-teen patients.
What those Texas doctors suspected, we now know for sure - that serious
concerns are legitimate regarding the use of Gardasil. The
highly-promoted, so-called breakthrough vaccine that was recommended for
all girls and given to numerous children and teens to prevent possible
future cases of cervical cancer, is related to "adverse events"
experienced by thousands of girls after taking the vaccine.