One in Three Teenage Girls Got Gardasil Shots to Prevent Cervical Cancer, Government Report Says

One in three teenage girls in the United States has received the Gardasil vaccine to protect against a virus that is a leading cause of cervical cancer and genital warts, according to a newly released government study. That means millions of girls and many more older women have been given the vaccine associated with scores of patient deaths and serious health complications.

Since 2006, Gardasil has been linked to at least 47 deaths and thousands of serious adverse reactions, including fainting spells, blood clots, and a rare but severe neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. The complications have prompted questions about whether Gardasil is safe for preventing a disease, cervical cancer, which can be effectively detected and diagnosed through screening and routine pelvic exams.

The first report of its kind to compare the rates of Gardasil vaccinations for each state was released on September 17 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The report will no doubt be closely examined by critics of Gardasil, the controversial Merck & Co. vaccine that recently was recommended for use in boys and young men to further prevent the spread of cervical cancer and genital warts.

According to the report, the rates of Gardasil vaccinations vary widely depending on the states where the women live. For instance, in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, more than half of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 got at least one dose of Gardasil, which is administered in a series of three shots. By comparison, the lowest rates of vaccination were reported in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, the CDC said.

Millions Worldwide Vaccinated With Gardasil

As many as 40 million girls and young women worldwide have been vaccinated with Gardasil since 2006 to guard against the four most common strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is responsible for about 70 percent of cases of cervical cancer and nearly all cases of genital warts.

About six million Americans are infected with HPV each year, but in most cases, the virus disappears after a few years without producing any symptoms. However, if the virus becomes activated, it can lead to serious medical problems including cervical cancer.

Gardasil Linked to Dozens of Patient Deaths

The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly stood behind Gardasil and proclaimed the vaccine safe, but reports of patients dying and suffering serious health complications after receiving the shots keep coming.

In June 2009, the FDA ordered Merck to include in Gardasil’s packaging stronger warnings about the risks of fainting spells after receiving the injections. In 2008, officials in Australia reported severe allergic reactions to Gardasil in some girls and young women who received the vaccine in that country.

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