The news was exciting.   Public education campaigns began influencing young women and their parents to take advantage of the vaccine that promised to protect them from the spread of cervical cancer.  Once the human papillomavirus (HPV) was pegged as the foremost cause of cervical cancer, word of a vaccination against the virus caused widespread hope.  Kansas City women should understand that there are risks and incidences of tragic side effects to young women after receiving doses of the vaccine.

It is estimated that over seven million women and girls in the United States have been given the vaccine.  The guidelines allow for the vaccine to be given to girls as young as nine years old.  The most common side effect of the HPV vaccine is fainting/dizziness following the dose.  Deadly blood clots and even cases of Lou Gehrig 's disease have been linked to the vaccine.  Temporary paralysis and loss of speech have been noted as well.  Twenty deaths have been attributed to the use of the vaccine.  Over 12,000 adverse effects have been reported from the HPV vaccine.  Rates of adverse effects were similar to the general side effects associated with other vaccines.

Now, however, questions have been raised about the circulation of information regarding the HPV vaccine.  According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Barbara A. Slade considered the vaccine safe enough for widespread use, noting that the rate of side effects was not huge.  However, authors of the same study conceded that the data in the article was based upon was imperfect analysis.

According to another paper published in JAMA, pharmaceutical giant Merck, maker of one of the major HPV vaccines, donated money in the form of grants to professional medical organizations in an effort to educate the public about the need for the vaccine to guard against cervical cancer.  The paper alleges that the drug company overstated the medical necessity of the vaccine.  Dr. Sheila M. Rothman, professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University, stated that "It was marketed as if every girl were at equal risk for cervical cancer, even though cervical cancer is not a disease of all women in the U. S.-it particularly affects girls who don't have access to health care and Pap tests."

The question left for parents then is to decide whether the HPV vaccine is worth the risks.  For young women who will receive adequate screening through routine pap smears, is the risk worth it?  According to a Norwegian infectious disease physician, Dr. Charlotte Haug, as long as young women have access to screening tests for cervical cancer, there is little chance they will ever get the disease.  "I wouldn't accept much risk of side effects at all for an 11 year-old-girl," she stated.

As parents and individuals weigh the choice of taking the HPV vaccine or not, it is essential to become educated about the possible side effects of the vaccine.  

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.