By Camaron Abundes
HOBBS- The average girl will never suffer any side effects from the Gardasil vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 23 million doses have been given in the United States as of December 31, 2008 and only 11,916 adverse effects had been reported at that time. Mothers like Beckey Waldrop say those stats aren't just numbers, they are girls like her daughter who did suffer side effects.
"I have now had lots of conversations to mothers who have lost their daughters and they know it's Gardasil." Waldrop says her healthy daughter became ill after the vaccine.
Like Waldrop, Crystal Mapp says she wanted to protect her daughter Samantha Hobbs before she ever became exposed to HPV. In 2006, the FDA approved Merck's Gardasil vaccine calling it a major advancement in public health because it works by helping those vaccinated develop an immunity to the most common types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) linked to genital warts and cervical cancers.
"The best scenario is to give the vaccine before that person ever becomes sexually active, so you are giving them the protection for those four components." Penny Farris, a registered nurse who heads up the immunization program at the Ector County Health Department says most girls respond well to the vaccine.
Around the country, Gardasil is becoming a routine vaccination in part because no other vaccine prevents against cervical cancer and because each year the CDC estimates 11,000 women will develop the disease and nearly 4,000 will die from it.
"More and more parents are becoming inclined to accepting the vaccine and allowing their children to have that protection," Farris said.
The CDC reports 50 percent of men and women in the U.S. will contract an HPV infection sometime in their lives. Mark Flannery, D.C. practices functional medicine at Healthwise Chiropractic & Nutrition.
"It's just a small number of people that get cervical cancer compared to how many people who get HPV." Dr. Flannery said most women don't develop cervical cancer until later in life and there is still no data that shows the vaccine will last that long.
Kelly Doughetry, a spokesperson for Merck said so far studies show the vaccine lasts at least five years but more than likely the vaccine's effectiveness will last much longer. Researchers are still monitoring the girls and women vaccinated in the clinical trials. Doughetry says if the vaccine's effectiveness begins to wane, researchers will start compiling data on the need for a booster shot to provide to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Merck lists the side effects for Gardasil as pain or swelling at the injection site, headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting. Other adverse effects reported to the Vaccination Adverse Effects System (VAERS) include joint pain Guillain-Barré syndrome, and generally feeling unwell.
"I saw a commercial for Gardasil and it was listing off the side effects and I noticed hey that was kind of what I am having." BaLeigh Waldrop, 15, said she started to piece together her symptoms weeks after the final dose of the vaccine.
Like Waldrop, Samantha Hobbs didn't know what was wrong with her following bizarre seizures and symptoms.
"At first, we thought I had what was called Crohn's disease, and it has to do with your intestines and that's why I couldn't keep anything down and I was going to have to go on chemotherapy and all this stuff to try to help it, if that's what it was, but I didn't have it," she said.
Instead, doctors now think her symptoms may be caused by the Gardasil vaccine.
"We've seen many of these girls suffering with seizures, that are unexplained." Dr. Flannery says the girls who develop a reaction to the vaccine often have a breakdown in the bodies natural barriers.
As of December 31, 2008, 32 deaths in the U.S. had been reported to VAERS, but the CDC says with the large number of doses given, it's expected that by chance alone some deaths will be reported following the vaccinations.
"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," Crystal Mapp said.
Dr. Flannery says in the girls he has treated, instead of building antibodies to HPV the girls become ill because the body attacks itself. He recommends a high protein diet for each girl plus individualized treatments to help their bodies rebuild normal protective barriers.
Each dose cost $125 dollars each. Merck said in a press release to investors it made $286 million on Gardasil in the United States.
"The marketing campaign behind it is huge," Dr. Flannery said.
At the Life Center in Midland they say its up to individual girls, parents and their doctors.
"When were talking about infections and sexually transmitted infections, it's important for parents to know that they have to step up and talk to their kids or the TV shows will be what educates them," Ryan Loyd with the Life Center said.