Mom of teen: Braving the HPV Vaccine

Today, I had every intention of taking my 16-year-old daughter to get the HPV vaccine.

When we got to the doctor’s office, I chickened out. I just couldn’t let them give it to her.

I’m terrified of  the possible side effects.

I’m just not convinced I know enough about short- and long-term reactions to Gardasil, the  Merck vaccine against four strains of the cancer-causing human papilloma virus

My pediatrician is a big proponent of Gardasil and said he gave both his teen daughters the vaccine, administered in a three-dose series. To him, the prevalence of HPV is too widespread not to get your teen vaccinated. A friend of mine who works as a nurse in a hospital ER is a proponent as well. She’s seen boys admitted with horrific genital warts and oral cancers associated with HPV.

I did some research and this is what I found…


The Center for Disease Control says HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. At least 50% of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives. There are more than 40 types of HPV that cause different symptoms and health problems.

To me, those are some scary facts. I want to protect my daughter from this virus.

Worse,  I learned that HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against HPV. Even more, according to CDC, there is  there is no medicine to treat an HPV infection which can lead to cervical cancer.


I happened upon a website called It scared the crap out of me with stories of girls who had the vaccine and died or suffered seizures, permanent disability and strokes. Even more, there are claims all over the Internet that even if you get vaccinated, your chances of experiencing some form of HPV infection still are high.


From all this, I tried to ferret out the truth. I found some answers on the website:

Matthew Herper writes: It’s true that there have been 24,000 reports of adverse events with Gardasil. (All of these numbers come from the VAERS database, which you can search here.) There have also been 60,000 reports of death with the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine, and 26,000 following vaccination with Pfizer‘s Prevnar, for pneumococcus bacteria. And yes, it’s true that there have been 106 deaths reported after Gardasil vaccination. There have also been 101 deaths reported after vaccination with Prevnar 13, a new version of Prevnar introduced in 2010. It’s normal for these reports to pour in for safe vaccines.

His conclusion: The risks from the vaccine are very small and may be limited to headaches and fainting caused by the needle, not the vaccine itself.

This certainly is a tricky health decisions parents must confront — weighing the odds of getting HPV against the odds of an adverse reaction from the vaccine. So far, only 30% of eligible girls have gotten Gardasil or rival product, Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline.


Here are a couple of interesting articles:

The Gardasil Problem: How The U.S. Lost Faith In A Promising Vaccine

Here Is How We Know Gardasil Has Not Killed 100 People

I’m not ruling out having my daughter get the HPV vaccine. Honestly, I’m scared of her being intimate one day with a guy who could give her the HPV virus. But for now, I’m still gathering info.

What are your thoughts on the HPV vaccine? Have you had your  teen daughter vaccinated? Would you consider getting your teen son vaccinated?

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