Gardasil Vaccine: Not Without The Risks

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

HOBBS- Samantha Hobbs, 15, still doesn't know exactly what is going on inside her body. After three rounds of the vaccine Gardasil she says she developed strange symptoms including nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain.

"I thought maybe she kept getting a stomach bug and it just wouldn't go away." Crystal Mapp says her daughter is suffering from the effects of Merck's Gardasil vaccine.

Doctors told Mapp, Samantha's Mom, the vaccine may have caused the symptoms but they couldn't prove it either way.

"On my bad days, I've had seizures. I can't eat anything, I am really weak." Samantha Hobbs said normal days include stomach aches and fatigue. She eats nothing but foods rich in protein and vegetables.

"We didn't really link it to anything."  Mapp said.

The vaccine is licensed by the FDA to prevent against the most common strains of HPV, types 6,11,16,18. The four strains cause most genital warts and are linked to most cervical cancer cases. The CDC recommends girls between 11-12 are vaccinated, but girls between 9 and 26 can receive the vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, more than 23 million doses of Gardasil were distributed in the United States as of December 31, 2008. Dr. John Iskander, with the CDC said most girls never suffer any side effects.

"They have got to figure out what happened with our girls, to prevent it in the future, if they are going to continue to use it in the future." Mapp said the benefits don't outweigh the risks.

A classmate of Samantha's also suffered headaches, blackouts, and dangerous drops in blood pressure starting the week after the third and final Gardasil vaccine.

"In Baleigh's case, the third one put her under, and the Doctor said her body said 'I can't go through this again.'" Beckey Waldrop said about her Daughter Baleigh, "They would diagnose it and say that yes they believed it was Gardasil, but when you asked them what we could do about it they would say that she would have to live with the side affects until the Gardasil leaves her body."

Waldrop found a chat room for other mothers who suffered from the side effects of Gardasil.

"They had already figured out that traditional medicine was not a good answer, and that traditional doctors didn't know what to do." Waldrop said.

Waldrop perused the postings from start to finish.

"The first one that I read was from a mother in Albuquerque who posted her mother had died that's when I realized that we could not mess around with this and we needed to find help and find it fast, because BaLeigh was getting worse." Waldrop said she read another posting from a mother in Nebraska who found help for her daughter. A doctor out of California crafted a diet and rehabilitation plan for the girl.

"We had begun to realize that a lot of the side affects could be permanent," Waldrop said.

Clinical trials on Gardasil started in December 2002. In 2006, the FDA approved the vaccine for use in girls. Dr. Iskander said it usually takes between 8-12 years for a vaccine to be approved.

A Merck spokesperson said the company did start preliminary testing for individual HPV strains more than a decade before the clinical trials started.

"That was harder than even the physical side effects knowing that my life was going away from me," BaLeigh Waldrop said.

At the Ector County Health Department, Penny Farris who heads up the immunization programs said the vaccine is now given like other routine vaccinations.

"We've had a really good response with it," Farris said.

Merck says in the clinical trials the vaccine has a near perfect record when it comes to protecting against HPV.

"I don't think the benefits outweigh the risks whatsoever, when I see my daughter the way that she is, and whenever I hear other mothers who have lost their daughters, and Gardasil was the only thing that was different in their lives," Mapp said.

Samantha is still suffering, and her mom says they're going to an immunologist next week. As for Baleigh, she's back at school. She says weeks of medical treatment helped but her faith made it happen. The Waldrop family went to a Healing service near Houston, TX.

"She was immediately better, she has had no symptoms," Waldrop said with a smile.

"His unexplained power that came over me, you can't explain it," BaLeigh Waldrop said.