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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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Unless you've been backpacking in the mountains for the last 6 months you've probably heard about Gardasil, the controversial vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) made by Merck. Back in June Judicial Watch released documents detailing 1,637 reports of adverse reactions to the vaccine. Three deaths were listed, all related to heart problems and/or blood clots.  There were 371 serious reactions adverse vaccination reactions reported to the FDA via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) including 18 pregnant women who experienced side effects ranging from spontaneous abortion to fetal abnormities. In Australia, 25 girls who had just received their first injection of the vaccine experienced headache, nausea, and dizziness. Merck & Co. has published side effects that include fever, nausea, pain, dizziness and itching after receiving the vaccine. The more serious side effects that are less reported include seizures, paralysis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and Bells Palsy.

The federal government approved Gardasil over a year ago. Several states have considered making this a mandatory vaccination. It's recommended for girls and women only, from 9 to 26, to protect them from genital warts and cervical cancer. The big 'C' word. Cancer prevention with a vaccine-sounds like a great idea. 30 million girls and women would be inoculated against human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted disease that rarely leads to cervical cancer. According to the American Cancer Society website, the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States dropped 74% from 1955-1992.What's made such a huge drop in the numbers? The PAP smear. This simple test, which is already part of preventive health care screening for women, provides early warning of cellular changes that can precede cancer. At $360 for 3 shots, Gardasil is one of the most expensive vaccines ever sold. If only 1 million women got the vaccine, that's $360 million dollars. Wouldn't that money be better spent on making sure that women received necessary preventive care?

The commercials for this vaccine are very seductive. Young and not so young women earnestly saying what they are going to do. Who would be so cruel or sexist to stand in the way of these women getting proper health care? This is a noble effort with no ulterior motives, right? Some estimates predict that the federal government may buy as many as 7 million doses of Gardasil, at a price of over 2 billion dollars. With all the lawsuits generated by Fosamax (for osteoporosis) and Vioxx (for joint pain), Merck really needs this vaccine to be mandatory and make a lot of money.
In a 2006 New England Journal of Medicine study, Volume 354:2645-2654, condoms reduced the incidence of HPV by 70%. Condoms are much easier, cheaper, and safer to use than a vaccine. We're not even sure that HPV is the cause of cervical cancer. The National Cancer Institute has said that direct causation has not been proven. Back in 1992 Jody Schwartz  and Peter Duesberg, molecular biologists at UC Berkeley, suggested that it was environmental carcinogens that damaged the cervix, making it more susceptible to infection. Meaning that cervical cancer, like 75% of all cancer, is environmentally triggered. HPV would then be a marker rather than a cause.

Merck's own literature says it is important to realize that Gardasil does not protect women against some "non-vaccine" HPV types. So, even if women accept the risks and get vaccinated, they can still get HPV. Before you rush to have your daughter, sister, wife, or girlfriend get this vaccine look at the numbers. Understand the true risks. Take preventive measures. Don't let those you love become a statistic in the VAERS.


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