April 21, 2009 by News Staff
By Noha El Maraghi and Kellie Doligale
With the media hype surrounding Gardasil, many UK students have felt the pressure to get the vaccine. But recent reports about the safety of the drug have caused some concern.
Gardasil is a vaccine intended for the prevention of four types of human papillomavirus, which are responsible for many genital warts and cervical cancer cases. The vaccine is available through University Health Services.
The questions about the safety of the vaccine arose from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a public health system that helps detect possible side effects of vaccinations. In its report it concluded, “Gardasil appeared to be associated with an unusually high number of reports of atypical collapse (fainting and syncope) and other symptoms of brain and immune system dysfunction.”
According to the reporting system, out of the 8 million girls who received the vaccine, 7,000 girls had “adverse effects,” which ranged from blood clots to paralysis.
Dr. Hatim Omar, a pediatrics professor in the College of Medicine, said VAERS is a system in which anyone can report information, so the information can be misleading. ‘Adverse effects’ are mostly unrelated to the vaccine, he said, such as fainting.
“With teenagers, just show them a needle and they’ll faint,” he said.
Omar said the Center for Disease Control investigates each report from VAERS to see if they are directly linked to the vaccine, and it concluded that the vaccine is extremely safe.
Communications junior Katie Murrell said she felt the pressure to get vaccinated once she learned about Gardasil.
“My mom was the one who initially pushed for me to get the vaccine, but once I learned more about it, I wanted to be vaccinated as well,” she said.
Gardasil is administered in the form of three shots over six months, and is available to girls ages nine to 26.
Nursing junior Rachel Curtis said she is wary of the vaccine, however, since it is relatively new and doctors aren’t sure what the long-term effects will be.
“There are not old enough studies to show what it can do down the road as far as side effects,” she said. “At this point in my life, I am in a stable relationship and do not feel the need.”
Dr. Miriam Marcum, an OB/GYN at the Kentucky Clinic South, said while it is unclear what the long-term effects of the vaccine will be, Gardasil is very similar to other vaccinations.
“Concerns about side effects are largely overstated and the vaccine is extremely safe,” she said. “It is absolutely recommended.”
Omar said the next question for Gardasil is why this vaccine is not available for men as well. Omar worked as a consultant for Merck in forming the vaccine and said a Gardasil for young men will be available probably around June or July.
“It would be pointless if you don’t give it to 50 percent of the population,” he said.