By Ainsley Smith
At least 60 Canadians have experienced debilitating illnesses after receiving Gardasil, a vaccine that combats HPV, according to a Toronto Star investigation. But there has not been a confirmed link between the vaccine itself and the cases that included death, hospitalization or illness.
Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Merck & Co.’s Gardasil vaccine in 2006, it has been surrounded by controversy.
The Star analyzed side-effect reports from a Health Canada database, as well as interviewing regulators, doctors and patients.
What is Gardasil?
- Gardasil is a vaccine that has been approved in more than 130 countries, and helps protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), said the Gardasil website.
- HPV causes 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases and 90 per cent of genital warts, and according to the Canadian Cancer Society roughly 400 Canadian women die of cervical cancer each year.
- Gardasil has also been shown to help protect against vulvar and vaginal cancers, as well as abnormal and pre-cancerous cervical cells in women.
Shelby Morriseau a student from British Columbia, had her first Gardasil vaccination when she was 19. Although she said she didn’t suffer from any negative side effects, she did learn vital information about the drug that she felt was kept from her.
“What I was uneducated in was that Gardasil only protects you against four kinds of HPV, but there are so many different kinds out there,” said Morriseau. “I was under the impression I was protected from the major HPV infections, but that was false because you can still get a serious infection regardless of the vaccine.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada said there are over 100 different types of HPV.
“I think girls need to be more educated on how the vaccine actually protects them,” said Morriseau.
Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls in Canada have received all three doses of the vaccine, the vast majority without incident.
Julia Malhman, a 21-year old nursing student from the University of Victoria, is one of them. She said she is an advocate for the vaccination and has recommended it to many of her friends and fellow classmates.
She had the shot when it first came out when she was in high-school, and said she remembers hearing a lot of speculation about the vaccine.
“I was told it will cause fetal abnormalities, potential death, and that it will not work as effectively if you have already been sexually active. The only side effects I felt was how painful the shot itself was,” said Malhman.
While Health Canada and the U.S. FDA said the vaccine is safe, officials in other countries have sounded alarms.
In 2013, Japan’s health ministry said it would stop promoting the vaccine while it looked into serious side-effect reports. The Star was clear that in the cases it reportedit is the opinion of a patient or doctor that a particular drug has caused a side-effect. The Star found no conclusive evidence showing that the vaccine caused an illness or death.
Cait N, a student living in Toronto, told Humber News she had suffered from serious side-effects.
She said she had her first Gardasil shot in January of 2014 and by April, she began to experience a variety of reactions and changes to her body that she didn’t understand.
“I went to the ER three times and they decided I possibly had vertigo and was told to seek out a neurologist, so I did, and my MRI came back normal and Vertigo was ruled out,” Cait N said.
After seven months and nine doctors, Cait N said she found two natural doctors who pointed to Gardasil as the culprit.
Cait has a public Instagram account where she shares her journey and healing process with her followers.
Christian De la Torre, a Registered Practical Nurse at Guelph General Hospital, said he supports the Gardasil vaccine.
“There’s a lot of evidence-based research proving its efficacy. I believe it’s safe because the main side effects are similar to other vaccinations. The most dangerous adverse effects, outside of death, are a higher rate of syncope, Thrombolytic events and Guillian-Barre Syndrome. But even then the chances are small and these adverse effects are something you could even get from a flu shot,” he said.