A new advancement in medicine will have some up in arms and revive the age-old Gardasil vaccine controversy. This month, the Federal Drug Administration has expanded the age in which patients can receive the vaccine for human papillomavirus. The HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil, originally was approved for use in 2006 for certain strains of HPV and was only available to women. That version of the shot is no longer available in the United States. In 2014, a newer version was released for men and women ages 9 through 26 years, and it was designed to assist in preventing additional HPV strains that are likely to cause cervical cancer and other symptoms. Now the FDA says that the shot can now be used in both men and women, ages 27 through 45. Although some see this age expansion as a blessing, others have very negative views of the vaccine (and vaccinations in general.) It’s important that physicians understand where their patients may stand on the topic of vaccinations, and exactly what the arguments are surrounding the Gardasil vaccine controversy.
Understanding the Gardasil Vaccine Controversy
While the Gardasil vaccine has proven to be very safe, there are still some people that are concerned. The HPV vaccine can cause side effects, ranging from mild to moderate. These side effects can include:
- Pain or swelling at the injection site
- Slight fever
- Muscle or joint pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Mild to moderate side effects are still relatively uncommon, as most people have no side effects at all after receiving the vaccine. However, some people are concerned that the Gardasil vaccine may have more serious side effects, such as decreased fertility. Fortunately, several large studies proved that the vaccine is just as safe as any other. Additionally, the studies demonstrated that the vaccine does not impact fertility.
Another reason that some people are against the HPV vaccine is that they’re concerned about its efficacy. While the vaccine does prevent HPV-related cancers, it only prevents some of them. So, women should continue to get routine Pap tests to check for signs of cervical cancer.
A large part of the Gardasil vaccine controversy stems from ethical and moral concerns. Since the vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection (STI), some people, especially parents, believe that it’s inappropriate for children. The vaccine must be given before a girl is sexually active. Therefore, there are arguments that the vaccine gives girls an incentive to become sexually active at an earlier age. According to an article on Forbes.com, “a related argument is that the HPV vaccine would give teens a false sense of security that they are protected against all sexually transmitted infections, leading them to not practice safe sex. However, raising awareness of what the HPV vaccine actually does could help overcome this concern.”
What Should Doctors Do?
It’s apparent that the benefits of the HPV vaccine greatly outweigh the cons, and doctors usually advocate for young patients to get the vaccine sooner rather than later. However, it is ultimately the parents’ decision whether or not to vaccinate their child. One study suggests that calling the vaccine a “cancer vaccine” instead of an “STI vaccine” increases its acceptance among parents. Aside from that, doctors should fully educate patients on the vaccine. Sometimes, parents don’t get the vaccine for their children because they’ve heard myths about it causing adverse reactions or even death. Physicians should make sure to inform patients and parents that the vaccine was put through extensive testing and is very safe. While doctors cannot require the vaccine, they should still strongly recommend it to their patients.
What are your thoughts on the Gardasil vaccine controversy? Have you encountered patients that were against it? Let us know in the comments below.