Potential Problems With Gardasil Reported

Is Cervical Cancer Vaccine Safe?

POSTED: 2:59 pm EDT September 25, 2008
UPDATED: 1:10 pm EDT September 26, 2008
It has been on the market two years. In that time, the government has received almost 10,000 complaints about Gardasil, the controversial cervical cancer vaccine.

NewsCenter 5's Liz Brunner has tracked down a local college athlete who claims Gardasil has destroyed her health.

The ads for Gardasil sound convincing. It’s the only cervical cancer vaccine that protects women against four types of the Human Papilloma Virus.

“Once I heard preventing cervical cancer down the line I thought I would just get it,” said Lauren Wholley, 22, of Danvers, Mass.

It was a decision Wholley regrets.

“What do you believe is making you sick?” Liz Brunner asked.

“Oh, the Gardasil shot, definitely. There is no other thing that could be making me sick. I was fine until the day after that shot,” Wholley said.

It was a day Whooley will never forget. She had wrapped up a light work out when her world turned upside-down.

“I really didn't know what to think,” Wholley said. “I just got really dizzy. My eyesight just went and I couldn't see a thing.”

“And within 24 hours of her having this adverse reaction, I went online and things that I read horrified me of girls across the country with atrocious symptoms,” said Ann Wholley, Lauren’s mom.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has received 9,749 complaints about Gardasil between June 8, 2006, and June 30, 2008. They range from headaches and fainting spells to blood clots and paralysis -- even death.

Wholley has filed a claim under the government’s injury prevention program seeking compensation.

“Because of the money that my mother has spent on all the co-pays, on all the different doctors,” she said.

Gardasil has been shown to be 95 percent effective.

Merck stands behind its product and so does the CDC. Both groups said Gardasil is safe and effective, and its benefits outweigh the risks.

"It's important to remember that the proven benefit of Gardasil is that it helps prevent cervical cancer caused by the two virus types responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. Nothing is more important to Merck than the safety of our products and we carefully monitor the safety of Gardasil on a routine basis," Merck said in a prepared statement. "Experts at the FDA and CDC also continue to review data and, in July, said 'Gardasil continues to be safe and effective, and its benefits continue to outweigh its risks.'"

“What we have is a shot that we know is very effective at preventing infection from the 4 types of HPV, and we don't have any evidence that it causes these serious adverse events,” said Dr. Lydia Shrier, of Children’s Hospital Boston.

In fact, Merck and the CDC said there have been fewer adverse reactions to Gardasil compared to other vaccines. But four months after getting Gardasil, Whooley is still struggling.

“My usual symptoms are headaches, dizziness, numbness and tingling in my feet. Just tired,” she said. “I'm trying to get back to normal.”

To a time when the only shots she was taking were on the basketball court.

“Do you regret having the shot?” Brunner asked.

“I do,” Wholley said.