Gardasil is a vaccine which could help children become less at-risk for future HPV-related cancers and diseases. It is the only option of its type that can help to protect against the nine specific types of human papillomavirus which are responsible for a significant majority of the HPV-related diseases and cancers that impact the health of people around the world.
Like any other vaccine, Gardasil works to prevent disease before a person has any contact with the virus. It is currently recommended as a vaccination for children at the age of 11 or 12. It works to help protect girls, boys, women, and men between the ages of 9-26 against specific cancers and genital warts that are caused by these virus types.
For children up to 14 years of age, Gardasil is given by a medical provider and a 2-dose or 3-dose schedule. If your doctor recommends the two-dose schedule, then the second shot should be given between 6-12 months after the first stage of the vaccination was administered. When the three-dose option is used, then the second shot is provided less than 5 months after the first shot, while the third dose is given at least 4 months after the second shot.
Anyone above the age of 14 must receive the 3-dose schedule.
If you are thinking about taking the Gardasil vaccine yourself or having it administered to your children, then here are the specific pros and cons to review about this treatment option.
List of the Pros of Gardasil
1. Gardasil can help to protect against the formation of precancerous lesions.
There are over 32,000 cancer cases caused by HPV diagnosed in the United States every year. It is believed that 30,000 of these cases could be prevented by the administration of Gardasil because it guards against the nine most-common types of viruses that can cause future health issues. Although there are Pap smears which can help women detect cervical cancer, there is nothing available at the moment to test for HPV until it develops into something that is more dangerous. Men have no screening access to the potential cancer is caused by HPV. That is why it is such a useful treatment to consider.
2. There are proven results from administering the vaccine already.
During the first four years that this vaccine was available in the United States, there was a 50% reduction in girls between the ages of 14 to 19 in the types of HPV that the vaccine protects against. Australia has seen even more significant declines thanks to an extensive vaccination program against the virus there, where the prevalence of infections fell by more than 75% for women between the ages of 18-24.
3. It reduces the impact of genital warts caused by HPV.
When women receive Gardasil as a way to protect themselves against HPV, then there is a significant decrease in the general population in the prevalence of genital warts caused by the virus. A study published by PLOS One found that the rate in Australian women dropped by 61%, from 4.3 to 1.67 per every 1,000 encounters, over a 4-year period that began in 2008. In the United States, approximately 360,000 teens experience genital warts each year. Even though this health issue is a benign growth, skin-to-skin contact with an infected area can cause them to spread. This vaccine helps to reduce that issue.
4. Research indicates that the vaccine is safe for the general population.
Clinical trials of Gardasil found that this vaccine is safe for the vast majority of people who receive it when compared to the administration of a placebo. Deaths occurred in 0.1% of the studied population in both groups. Since its approval in the United States, approximately 12 million people (mostly girls) have received this shot to support their resistance to HPV. Out of those figures, the CDC and the FDA have received 71 reports of someone passing away after the shot. There was no pattern in the way this occurred as each person had different symptoms or pre-existing conditions.
5. Gardasil offers long-lasting protection against the impact of HPV.
Research indicates that this vaccine offers significant protection for people for at least eight years after receiving it. The antibody levels are much higher after receiving a vaccination than they are after a natural infection occurs. This result suggests that people could receive protection for at least 15 years after the shot occurs, with some people potentially experiencing lifelong protection against the virus. If only one shot is eventually required without a booster, it may reduce the reported side effects and safety concerns that some people have about the product.
6. It does not actually contain small pieces of HPV to initiate an antibody reaction.
When vaccines were first created, researchers used weakened or killed viruses to initiate an antibody response in the body. These live components offered a small, but critical risk of creating the disease that a patient was being inoculated against because of its structure. Gardasil is a little different. It is made from small proteins that look like the outside of real HPV. The body makes antibodies to remove the protein from the body, which then creates a long-term response to prevent the virus.
7. Gardasil does reduce the likelihood of developing cervical precancers.
In a Cochrane review of more than 25 studies covering 73,000 girls and women, the impact of the HPV vaccine was compared to the use of a placebo shot for participants in the targeted age ground. The meta-analysis of the data found that girls and women who received Gardasil were significantly less likely to develop cervical precancers compared to those who did not. The findings from the review also suggest that the vaccine is more effective when given to younger women. No serious side effects were registered during the trial, nor did the vaccine increase the rate of stillbirths or miscarriages.
8. It may prevent certain types of throat cancer.
Although Gardasil is not necessarily licensed to prevent oropharyngeal cancers, up to 95% of HPV-positive diseases that are diagnosed in the United States each year are caused by HPV-16. That is the same type that is targeted by vaccines that work to prevent cervical cancers in most of the previous generations of this shot. There are roughly 12,000 new cases of throat cancer which are diagnosed each year, which means it may eventually cause more of these diseases than cervical cancer in the future. Men are diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer at a rate of 4.5 to 1 compared to women, with researchers believing that the cause is due to an increase in sexual behavior changes that involve oral sex.
List of the Cons of Gardasil
1. Gardasil does not fully protect everyone.
Although the success rates for this vaccine are high in the general population, there is a risk that you or your child may not be fully protected from HPV after receiving the full series of shots. It will not fully protect everyone. It will also not protect against diseases caused by other HPV types other than the nine specific types that are included in the shot. It will also not protect you against diseases which are not caused by the human papillomavirus.
2. Gardasil is not for someone who has a yeast allergy.
If you are allergic to yeast, then you will want to have a discussion with your doctor about whether or not Gardasil is an appropriate treatment option when you wish to guard against an HPV infection. You will also want to avoid this vaccine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients which are used to create it. That means you should not receive this treatment option if you are allergic to polysorbate 80 or amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate. If you have had a reaction to vaccines in this past, this may be an indication that you have an allergy to this shot.
3. Some people cannot receive this vaccine because of their current health status.
You will want to tell your healthcare provider about specific health conditions or events before receiving Gardasil because its administration is not appropriate in some situations. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, then this shot is not recommended for use. If you have an immune problem, such as cancer, an HIV infection, are you take immunosuppressive medications, then this vaccination may not be appropriate. You should not receive it if you have a fever that is over 100°F either.
4. There are several side effects to consider when taking Gardasil.
Although several organizations and associations have endorsed the use of this HPV vaccine, there are still some physicians to hesitate to recommend it because of the potential side effects that could occur for some patients. Gardasil may cause issues that range from pain at the injection site and fainting to auto immune or neurological disorders. Some people who have received this shot have reported experiencing chronic pain for long-term fatigue. A rare effect is sudden premature menopause.
Dr. Jane Orient, Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said that “there are enough reports of girls dropping dad or coming down with serious paralysis after the vaccine that I believe they shouldn’t receive it.” The VAERS system in the United States received more than 12,000 reports during a 2009 review of inoculation records and reports.
5. There have been over $6 million in claims paid by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation program in the United States.
Figures last reported in late 2018 show that there have been over 200 claims related to the HPV vaccine filed with VICP, which is the Department of Health and Human Services compensation program for injuries related to inoculation activities. Over $6 million has been paid to approximately 50 victims currently, and some experts believe that figure could be a lot higher. Some doctors compare the potential injury risk of Gardasil with the diethylstilbestrol that was given to pregnant women in the 1940s through the 1960s, where serious problems such as infertility and cancer in the offspring were not detected until decades later.
6. It may encourage a premature start to teenage sexual activity.
Many of the concerns which surround this HPV vaccine are in regard to the sexual activity of the teenagers who receive it. Some parents are nervous about giving their children this inoculation because it helps to prevent the dangers that are associated with a sexually transmitted disease. Some believe that administering this shot could be seen as a way to promote risky or sexual behaviors in the future. Research from the Netherlands found that there was no significant evidence indicating a difference between the sexual behaviors of those who were vaccinated and those who were not, but extensive studies have not looked at this issue.
7. Some health ministries have withdrawn their support for this vaccine.
The Health Ministry in Japan withdrew their support of this HPV vaccine in 2013 because of the reports of serious side effects that girls were experiencing after getting the shot. The health agencies in France, Israel, India, and Spain have expressed similar reservations about Gardasil because of the adverse reactions it may sometimes cause. Although this perspective is not shared in the United States, some medical providers believe that the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies and political conflicts of interest may not readily allow for the potential serious problems of this product to be acknowledged.
8. We cannot know yet if the vaccine is effective at preventing cervical cancer.
Most cervical cancers require between 10-20 years to fully develop before they become a health issue for women. Because of the newness of Gardasil, the effect that vaccinations have had on girls is not yet known. Since pap smears and other screening tools are an effective way to detect this cancer, some medical providers don’t see the need for the vaccine since early detection occurs frequently and for less of a cost than the vaccine. Gardasil can cost around $120 per shot, and it is not always covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or private health insurance plans.
9. The administration of Gardasil can be challenging for some families to follow.
Numerous medical experts agree that one of the primary reasons why the vaccination rate for HPV is so low in the United States is because the schedule is challenging for families to follow. As of 2013 data, just 38% of teens had received all three doses that were recommended. Shifting to a two-dose schedule for younger children may help the completion rates, it is not uncommon for parents to drop the ball when following up with the additional shots.
The pros and cons of Gardasil are critical to review for every parent. Although there are risks associated with this vaccine that must be carefully considered, obtaining HPV through a natural infection carries a certain amount of risk as well. Speak with your doctor about these potential advantages and disadvantages for your health or that of your child to decide if this inoculation is something that is suitable for your family.