While my daughters are still too young to receive Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, many of my friend's daughters have and I've naturally paid very close attention to news about this drug. While the Centers for Disease Control considers Gardasil safe, there have now been close to 10,000 reports of adverse side effects ranging from nausea and light-headedness to paralysis and even 21 reported deaths. This is an alarming number and cannot be discounted.
Of course Gardasil's manufacturer Merck says these are merely anecdotal cases and CDC researchers say that there is not enough information to prove whether Gardasil caused any of the side effects reported. But as moms are we willing to risk our daughter's well being until conclusive evidence exists? For many parents this vaccine has been controversial from its inception. Some believe that by innoculating young girls against sexually transmitted disease will promote sexual promiscuity. Clearly this will add fuel to the debate. It should be noted that while there have been close to 10,000 adverse reactions since 2006, there are also 11,000 cases of cervical cancer every year and 4,000 deaths.
So what's a mom to do? We all want to protect our daughters and constantly worry whether we are making the right decisions. For the time being, until Gardasil is studied more, perhaps the answer is better screening and honest conversations. Getting regular Pap smearscan help detect pre-cancerous changes, which can be treated before they turn into cervical cancer. Pap smears work very well in spotting such changes, but they must be done regularly. And while none of us want to believe our daughters are sexually active, it's important that we discuss safe sex practices. With two daughters of my own, this is an issue that I will be paying close attention to. Have you had your daughter vaccinated? Is this a concern to you? Please share your thoughts and concerns.