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Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine "safe," feds say

The huge marketing push around the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, and anecdotal reports about girls fainting after getting the shots, may have you second-guessing its safety.  New data may ease your mind.

An estimated 2.5 million girls between the ages of 13 and 17 have been vaccinated with the three-shot series, which protects against four strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that causes 70 percent of cervical cancers. Since the Merck vaccine was approved two years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received 10,326 reports of adverse events after girls got the shot, the agency reported yesterday—but the vaccine itself doesn't seem to be responsible.

"Experts have not found a common medical pattern to the reports of serious adverse events reported for Gardasil that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine," the report says. "Gardasil is safe to use."

The majority of reactions—94 percent—were not considered to be serious. Among them: fainting, pain, headache, nausea, fever and swelling on the arm where they were vaccinated. "Fainting is common after injections and vaccinations, especially in adolescents," the agency says. (Needles can prompt teens to pass out, an Associated Press report on the fainting episodes earlier this year noted.)

The severe reactions in the report included blood clots and Guillan-Barré Syndrome, a treatable but not curable condition that can cause muscle weakness. Twenty-seven girls who received the shots died, but the CDC said "there was no common pattern...that would suggest [the deaths] were caused by the vaccine." The report attributed the deaths to diabetes, heart failure, viruses and drug use.

(Image by iStockphoto/Don Bayley)

 

 

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