February 1, 2010
by Marcia Yerman
When I originally named the final installment in the Empowher Gardasil series, the title was “A Mother Speaks Out.” Yet, I found that that one woman’s story was reflected in the journeys of parents around the world who were searching to understand why their daughters had become mysteriously ill. A series of circumstances seemed to be replicating, and the Gardasil vaccine kept popping up as a common denominator.
As parents sought to navigate a situation where their healthy daughters had become sick and, in the worse case scenario – died, they turned to the Internet for answers. Scouring the web for information, checking message boards and chat rooms, they found out that their predicament was not isolated. They reached out to others; harnessed the power of social media; created support systems and advocacy networks. They began to build a grassroots movement to square off against Merck & Co., the producer of Gardasil. Most importantly, for families who were at the start of an overwhelming and arduous process, they found a space to enter which had been constructed by those who had been there before them.
In 2009, Rosemary Mathis and Marian Green started the website TheTruthAboutGardasil. It comes up in a Google search for Gardasil second, directly underneath the Gardasil website. With a play on Merck’s advertising pitch, their tagline is “I don’t want to be ‘One Less.’ Investigate before you vaccinate.” I spoke with both women in a joint interview by telephone. They explained their struggles to understand why their daughters’ health had become impaired.