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Gardasil Safety: Questions and Answers

Experts Weigh In on Safety Concerns About HPV Vaccine Gardasil

Vaccine Not to Blame? continued...

"Nonserious events" such as pain at the injection site and fainting made up 93% of the reported Gardasil adverse events in the VAERS database, says Iskander.

He notes that teens are particularly likely to faint after any vaccination, not just with Gardasil. The CDC recommends that health care providers observe patients for 15 minutes after vaccination with any vaccine. As for the pain reports, Gardasil "does seem to cause a bit more discomfort to some people, compared to some of the other vaccines given to teenagers," says Iskander.

Merck, which continues to monitor Gardasil's adverse events, stresses the fact that adverse event reports don't amount to proof of cause and effect.

Different Opinions

Karen Smith-McCune, MD, PhD, associate professor of the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the University of California, San Francisco, agrees that the VAERS data don't amount to proof.

But Smith-McCune, who has daughters in the age range for Gardasil vaccination, says she's waiting to see the final, published results from Gardasil's phase III clinical trials before she decides whether to let her daughters get vaccinated.

Merck presented those results to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in February and plans to publish the findings later this year, Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose tells WebMD by email.

"That's great," says Smith-McCune. "Until we see the published, peer-reviewed final results from phase III trials, we don't have the gold standard of evidence for safety and efficacy."

Smith-McCune co-wrote an editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine in May 2008 recommending a cautious approach to the promising and apparently safe vaccine.

Iskander recommends that parents review the CDC's vaccine information statement on Gardasil and then make their decision about their daughters' vaccination.

"I think two years of post-licensure safety monitoring is really a good track record," says Iskander, who says he gives Gardasil in his clinical practice and abides by what patients decide about Gardasil vaccination. "Neither providers nor patients should be making decisions based on unfounded fears."

 

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