Putting The Spotlight on Gardasil
By Rosario Torres
hile Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common sexually transmitted infection, the vaccine Gardasil is available to protect against certain strains of the disease. But since Gardasil is a new vaccine, it has been the subject of some controversy.
HPV is passed on through genital contact and can also be passed on through oral sex. HPV infects genital areas of males and can also infect the mouth and throat. According to the CDC, approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. In 90 percent of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years. Sometimes HPV infections not cleared can cause genital warts, warts in the throat, cervical cancer, or other cancers such as vaginal, penile, vulva, or throat cancer.
“Venereal warts are caused by the papilloma virus, they are very painful and don’t go away,” said Kathy Ryan, Lincoln High School’s nurse.
According to Gardasil’s website, for girls ages 9 to 26, the vaccine helps protect against two types of HPV that cause 75 percent of cervical cancer cases and two more types that cause 90 percent of genital warts cases. It also protects against 70 percent of vaginal cancer cases and up to 50 percent of vulvar cancer cases, in that same age range. The vaccine is given as three injections in six months.
“The reason the vaccine is given as early as age 9 is because there are many strains of HPV. Being vaccinated before becoming sexually active protects against those strains,” said Ryan.
TheTruthAboutGardasil.org is a website created by two mothers from North Carolina. Marian Green and Rosemary Mathis met after their daughters were vaccinated by the vaccine and became very ill. The website documents the injuries and deaths of females who have been vaccinated by the Gardasil vaccine. They believe the vaccine is to blame and bring awareness of its adverse reactions. Ryan disagrees.
“Some parents are anti-vaccine, they give opinions that lack education and are emotion based,” said Ryan.
According to the CDC, as of Sept. 15, 2011, 71 deaths have been reported by the Adverse Event Reporting System among those who have received Gardasil vaccinations. 57 of those deaths were female, three were males, and 11 were of unknown gender. But these numbers are not always black and white.
“How data is gathered and reported can lead to questionable conclusions,” said Ryan.
In males ages 9 to 26, Gardasil helps protect against 90 percent of Genital warts cases. When freshman Jorge Zaragoza went in for a routine physical examination, his doctor recommended the vaccine. Zaragoza admits feeling awkward about receiving the same vaccine as girls, however, he said he would prefer to get the vaccination before being infected.
“My mother believes the vaccine can help me stay well,” said Zaragoza. He has received one dose so far, but plans on going back on Jan. 16 for the second dose.
After seeing the Gardasil commercial on television, Gladys Solis, a Special Education Assistant at Lincoln, took her 12 year old daughter to get vaccinated. The doctor also recommended the vaccine for her 11 year old daughter. Both of Solis’ daughters have completed the three doses.
“I disapprove of parents not giving their kids shots that are beneficial to their health,” said Solis.
She shared that parents should get their kids vaccinated and be aware of any allergies that their children might have prior to getting vaccinated.
Nurse Ryan advises parents to understand why the HPV vaccine is given, and to ask their health care provider questions before their son or daughter is vaccinated.
“People need to make their own decision and look at websites such as cdc.gov, not websites that are meant to scare people into not getting vaccinated,” Ryan said.
Ryan also feels that getting the HPV vaccine can prevent young people from contracting the virus.
“It’s better to get vaccinated than to get HPV in your lifetime,” said senior Judith Dominguez, who plans on getting her young daughter vaccinated when she turns 11.
Gardasil may not fully protect everyone; health officials stress the importance of women having cervical screenings.
“Cervical cancer is not like breast cancer where you do a self exam and feel a lump,” said Ryan. “Cervical cancer can go unseen until it’s too late.”