HPV Vaccine - Myths vs Fact
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MYTH: The vaccine has caused many deaths.
FACT: No causal link between the vaccine and death has been found.
Studies have demonstrated similar small numbers of deaths in both the Gardasil and placebo (non-vaccine) groups by e.g. road accidents, suicide, or other illnesses.
The safety of Gardasil vaccine has been carefully evaluated since 2002. It is in wide use internationally with over 70 million doses administered.
MYTH: The clinical trials did not prove that the vaccine prevented death from cervical cancer.
FACT: The trials could not ethically allow cervical cancer or death to be end points for evaluation.
The trials show almost 100% efficacy in the prevention of high grade HPV types 16 and 18 related pre-cancers, which cause 70% of cervical cancers.
MYTH: The vaccine can make pre-existing HPV infection worse.
FACT: Clinical studies show no worsening of pre-existing diseases.
The vaccine does not treat existing HPV infection and ideally should be given prior to being sexually active.
MYTH: The vaccine only lasts 5 years.
FACT: Current data suggests the vaccine protection is ongoing so far with no sign of waning. The mechanism of immune memory has been demonstrated in women who have been vaccinated, suggesting the vaccine will provide long-term protection.
MYTH: The vaccine affects fertility and if given to young girls might make them infertile.
FACT: Gardisal does not cause infertility or sterility.
MYTH: The vaccine can cause birth defects.
FACT: No specific congenital abnormalities resulting from the vaccine have been demonstrated.
In the clinical trials, the pregnancy rates and congenital abnormalities were the same in both vaccinated and placebo (non vaccine) groups.
MYTH: The vaccine only protects against four strains of HPV, so other cancer-causing strains will increase.
FACT: There is no evidence that immunity against the four genital HPV strains in the vaccine is associated with a changing prevalence of other HPV strains.
MYTH: Because the clinical trials of the vaccine didn’t include girls under 16, the vaccine is not proven to be safe for girls under 16 years.
FACT: The clinical trials included girls aged from 9 years of age, who were tested for their immune response to the vaccine and followed up for safety. It would have been unethical to have subjected these girls to cervical smears at this younger age. The group who received the vaccine in early adolescence has now been followed as young adults, with no development of the HPV infections covered by the vaccine.
MYTH: Because men are not being vaccinated, they will infect women.
FACT: Women who are not vaccinated are susceptible to infection.
Girls who are fully immunised (prior to becoming sexually active) are protected from acquisition of the four types of genital HPV in the Gardasil vaccine for at least 8.5 years and likely much longer. Vaccination of women protects men from infection (reduction of genital warts seen in heterosexual men in Australia).
MYTH: The vaccine has caused many serious adverse reactions.
FACT: Gardisal has not been found to cause increased risk of any serious condition.*
MYTH: Aluminium is used in the Gardasil vaccine and it is unsafe.
FACT: Both aluminium and saline were used as placebo vaccines in the trials. The incidence of systemic reactions was very low in both groups.
Aluminium is used in most non-live vaccines and has an excellent safety record of over 70 years.
* As with any medication, vaccines carry an extremely rare risk of an anaphylactic reaction. The rate with Gardasil is around 3/1,000,000 doses. Vaccinators are trained to manage these events.
“The combination of HPV vaccination, regular cervical screening and practising safe sex offers New Zealand women the best protection against cervical cancer and the development of genital warts.” – Dr Greg Simmons Chief Advisor Population Health, Ministry of Health