By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Gardasil, the controversial vaccine developed to protect girls from being infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that causes cervical cancer, is once again in the news for causing adverse reactions.
The latest story involves a 16 year old girl from Arvada, Colorado who has had four episodes of temporary paralysis and has been suffering from chronic nausea and exhaustion ever since receiving the Gardasil vaccine a year ago.
According to a report by the Rocky Mountain News, in August, 2007, Ashley Ryburn was playing sports, dancing in her high school show and earning top grades with little effort. She was a perfectly healthy teen when she received her first dose of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects girls from infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that is known to cause cervical cancer.
Ashley received the Gardasil vaccine along with another vaccine for meningitis, a combination that is said to be safe even though it has never been clinically tested.
Two months later, Ashley received a second dose of Gardasil and it was at this time that she began to get sick.
Suddenly, she was exhausted all the time, complained of nausea, passed out at school and began to experience episodes when her legs would go numb and she couldn’t walk.
“She didn’t go to the doctor at all, then after she got the shots, it’s boom, boom, boom,” said her mother, Lisa Holtman. “We haven’t stopped.”
Reports of girls becoming ill like Ashley after receiving Garasil are by no means rare. As of Aug. 31, the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) had logged 10,326 reports of reactions to Gardasil, according to the CDC. Of those reports, 94 percent were considered to be “nonserious.”
The serious reports included Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that causes muscle weakness, blood clots and death. Each incident was “carefully analyzed by medical experts,” the CDC said in a report last updated in October. They claim to have found no evidence that the reactions were caused by the vaccine.
However, Spain’s Health Ministry announced on Feb. 10, 2009 that it was halting the use of a batch of Gardasil after two girls became sick. Thus far, officials at the Ministry are not sure if there’s a connection between the vaccine and the girls’ reaction.
Merck, the manufacturer of the vaccine, continues to stand behind the drug. It issued a statement in July, 2008, saying it was “proud of the public health benefit that Gardasil can provide in helping to prevent cervical cancer” and maintaining that “no safety issue related to the vaccine has been identified.” The company projects sales for Gardasil to be more than $1 billion a year over the next few years.
In spite of these denials, Gardasil accounted for almost 20 percent of reactions reported to VAERS in 2007-2008, said Barbara Loe Fisher, co- founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a watchdog group based in Virginia.
“This is a whitewash of this vaccine. To say that almost 10,000 reports of reactions, injuries, 30 deaths is all a coincidence is simply not scientifically responsible,” Fisher said. “You have perfectly healthy girls go in and get this shot and then suffer a pattern, a very clear pattern of injury, and some of them are dying. This is not acceptable.”
The side effects are all similar to what happened to Ashley, Fisher said: brain inflammation, immune system dysfunction, tingling and numbness in the hands, feet and legs, severe headaches, strokes, joint pain, muscle weakness, seizures and memory loss.
“Usually, these girls are very high functioning,” Fisher said. “They’re honor roll students. They’re athletes. They’re usually in extremely good health before they have a severe downward turn after receiving one or more Gardasil vaccinations.
Instead of encouraging girls to remain abstinent until marriage, thus giving them the best possible protection against diseases such as HPV, most schools favor “comprehensive sex education” which focuses mainly on birth and other “risk reduction” techniques. Many schools are also mandating the vaccine for girls as young as nine years old, even though it has never been clinically tested on children for safety.
Meanwhile, teens like Ashley live with the fallout. Since being vaccinated, she’s had to quit sports and her grades have dropped. When she tried out for basketball her legs were shaking and she couldn’t breathe after two drills. She takes a handful of pills every day and has to carry a special bag of medical supplies in case she has an “episode.” She will sometimes hear her mother or her boyfriend talk to her, but she won’t be able to answer.
“If I had never got the shot, I would be a normal teenager,” Ashley said. “I wish I could go back.”
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