Gardasil Pros vs. Cons
June 27, 2014 7:38 PM   Subscribe

How dangerous is Gardasil? What is your personal experience with taking it? I just heard all the horrible stories and in so scared because I just received it today. I see nothing good reviewed about it.

Is it really that horrible where you can lead up to a serious health illness? Should I not get the second or third shot?? I see nothing but horror stories.
posted by Asian_Hunnie to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

What? I had all three gardasil shots with no side effects. HPV-free, baby!
posted by samthemander at 7:45 PM on June 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think stories like these are spread by people who don't want young women to enjoy themselves. It's no more dangerous than any other tested vaccine.
posted by chaiminda at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2014 [38 favorites]

Where are you going for horror stories? Check the CDC.

"In 2011, the VSD studied the occurrence of specific adverse events following more than 600,000 doses of Gardasil. Adverse events in the HPV vaccinated population were compared to another appropriate population (such as adolescents vaccinated with vaccines other than HPV) and included Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS), stroke, venous thromboembolism (VTE), appendicitis, seizures, syncope (fainting), allergic reactions, and a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. None of these adverse events were found to be any more common after HPV vaccination than among the comparison groups."

That sounds pretty conclusive to me.
posted by CrystalDave at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2014 [13 favorites]

> How dangerous is Gardasil?

Considerably less dangerous than HPV.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:50 PM on June 27, 2014 [57 favorites]

Get off Google and go do something fun with your Friday night.

I know that sounds flippant, but here's the thing: if you're Googling "Gardasil" or, lord help you, "Gardasil side effects" or "Gardasil danger" or some variant, you're going to get vastly more horror stories than not, because people who don't experience those horror stories aren't going to go online and say "I got Gardasil and it was ok"

Here are some numbers:
12,424 adverse events after immunization were reported to in United States between June 2006 and December 2008, during which an estimated 23 million doses had been distributed (with a course of 3 doses per person recommended). This represents a reporting rate of 53.9 reports per 100,000 doses distributed.

Of these, 772 reports (6.2% of the total) were described as serious, including 32 reports of death.
Note that that's 6.2% of the total reported adverse effects, which comes out to 0.003% of the total administered doses. You are literally more likely to be struck by lightning at some point in your life than to experience serious adverse effects from this vaccine.

As far as health horror stories, some of the worst I've ever read have been about cervical cancer. YMMV.
posted by kagredon at 7:51 PM on June 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Unfortunately I had a colposcopy and so I wasn't feeling too active today and stayed in bed tonight.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 8:06 PM on June 27, 2014

I got it about 8 years ago, and it was seriously no big deal. A little soreness at the injection site (like with any vaccine) and about an hour of mild wooziness with each shot. And that's it. 8 years on, no side effects, and no HPV. I'm glad I got the vaccine.

I think Gardasil brings out both the anti-vaxxer crowd and the "all women's health advances lead to promiscuity" crowd, and that's why you see so much stuff online, but it's as safe as any other vaccine.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:08 PM on June 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

Cervical cancer is particularly nasty because it is symptomless for a long time and so when you get diagnosed, you have a hard fight ahead. I had my four teens vaccinated (boys AND girls). The vaccine is new so there's less research about it, but the adverse rate risk is really low.

It's a balance of risks. If you are healthy and unlikely to get repeated HPV exposure and you live with decent medical care, your cervical cancer risk is pretty low and you might have a case of selecting not to have it as not worth the risk. If you have poor health, get exposed to HPV often, and live in the developing world, your risk goes up sharply.

I haven't bothered getting another Japanese encephalitis immunization for example since one over a decade ago when I went to a high-risk area during an outbreak. If I was planning to visit someone in rural Vietnam, I would get the shot because I have a crap immune system and couldn't risk an infection, but my generally very healthy husband chose not to when he did, because he felt the side-effects and risk wasn't worth it if there wasn't a current outbreak.

A lot of the anti-Gardisil stuff is going to point out that HPV is widespread and yet most carriers don't get cervical cancer. Sure, because it seems so far to be HPV plus another trigger. You don't usually get cervical cancer without HPV. And HPV is so widespread that Gardisil protects not just you but your partners and their partners. But also - are you sure you're always going to be in great health? Always living near good medical care? That's why I got my teens immunized - I hope they'll always be healthy and have safe sex and live near great medical care, but I can't count on that being true, and here I can help prevent them getting HPV.

My four went ow, one had a very mild fever after one shot, and that was it. No adverse outcome.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:10 PM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I feel like reviews of vaccines are like reviews of apartment complexes. Nobody who has a perfectly fine experience even bothers to write in. I had Gardasil (all 3, and I'm a dude) and never had a bad experience. I would never bother to write a review online about it, but you should definitely get it, given the opportunity. I have no idea who is writing these horror stories but they sound like a vocal minority. A very, very, very minor minority.

My Gardasils came from a campus vaccination clinic where they were giving out hundreds if not thousands of vaccinations a day. I guarantee these thousands of people didn't bother writing a review online, but if they had had a problem, you certainly could have heard about it via the CDC or similar organizations. You didn't, so clearly my campus didn't have a problem.
posted by wondercow at 8:12 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Gardasil is extremely safe. As noted, the scare stories derive from a combination of typical anti-vaxxer scientific illiteracy and moral authoritarians who want to frighten women into not exercising their rights to sexual health and happiness on their own terms.

Cervical cancer is a particularly difficult, painful cancer to have. A good friend of mine is watching her mother die of it right now. The people who want to frighten you into not protecting yourself have an agenda -- and that agenda is NOT your well-being.
posted by scody at 8:15 PM on June 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

I got it many years ago. My arm had negligible soreness (way less than a tetanus booster).

I see nothing good reviewed about it.
Well it prevents a lot of cancers, so it's got that going for it.

I imagine most of the negative stories you find on the internet are either anti-vax woo or politically motivated astroturfing. You should ignore them.
posted by ryanrs at 8:45 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got the shots when I was maybe 25 and didn't have any problems with them. I have no regrets. If i have a kid, I'd want them to get it as soon as practical. Generally vaccines are very safe. Gardasil might be even safer because people were so skeptical about it.

Keep in mind that a lot of online reviews are written by people who had bad experiences. Few people to online and say that something was terrific.

It's really quite incredible that there's a vaccine available that prevents cancer, in my opinion.
posted by kat518 at 8:52 PM on June 27, 2014

Dude I had them and it was great. Nothing makes me happier than crossing a type of cancer off my list of worries.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:41 PM on June 27, 2014

I don't know what these horror stories are, but I suspect that they are complete bullshit spread by people that are against birth control and anything for women's health. These are propaganda stories. I have had all three Gardisil shots with zero side effects, and all young girls should get them, and have more protection against cancer and disease.
posted by catatethebird at 11:50 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was a little on the old side when I got mine, but with my personal history, I still feel like it was a great decision. The only unpleasant thing was that the first two shots were very sore. The second in particular was sore enough to wake me up in the middle of the night when I rolled over, but I suspect part of that was muscle tension during the shot.

I'm in favor of vaccines in general, and if you ask me, HPV is a prime candidate for extinction.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:01 AM on June 28, 2014

I got the final shot about a month ago. I was also nervous after reading horror stories online and put it off for a long time because of this, but I'm really glad I did it. Barely any soreness. Zero side effects. Like others have said: If you ask Google for health advice, all results lead to "IT'S FATAL"
posted by perryfugue at 12:57 AM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sad to have been too old for it, and won't hesitate to sell my young daughter on the benefits of it in a few years. In my view it is miracle of the modern age! stuff, an exciting and useful advance in medicine.
posted by kmennie at 3:15 AM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have been watching a male friend go through throat cancer from HPV for the past year. Horrible. All of his friends have had their male and female children get the shots as a result. It is just as important for males to have the vaccine as well. Not one had an adverse side effect. Even if they did, I doubt it would be anything like the cancer and the chemo/radiation/surgery issues!
posted by maxg94 at 4:25 AM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Adding to the chorus here:

Gardisil is not dangerous.

Remember, you're not just protecting yourself, but also your future sex partners and their future sex partners and their future sex partners. Getting it if you're eligible is the responsible thing to do.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:01 AM on June 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I will tell the one story of "con" that I know.

My older niece got all 3 shots. After the first shot, she was sick for 24 hours - like the stomach flu. Vomiting, tired, etc. Then she was fine. Then she got the 2nd shot. Same 24 hours of "stomach flu". 3rd shot. Same thing.

Does it tell you anything that my sister chose to have 3 days of stomach flu for her child rather than cervical cancer? And she will do the same for her second child?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:02 AM on June 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

I had all 3 shots about 6 years ago. (I am female.) I think my arm was a bit ache-y and felt heavy for a couple of days each time (happens to me every time I get an injection, no matter what the shot actually is) but other than that, no side effects whatsoever. I have never regretted it.
posted by fanlight at 5:46 AM on June 28, 2014

There are many things in life for which online reviews are a helpful way to make decisions. Vaccinations are not one of them.

It would be like asking people to review their blood pressure medications. People can only perceive the side effects of the medication, and cannot know about the stroke they never had because of taking it - therefore 'reviews' of blood pressure medications are always going to be negative.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:09 AM on June 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

Another one for the anecdata:

I had the 3 Gardisil shots around age 26. The shots hurt a bit (usually I don't have any issues with shots/needles/blood drawing) and I was a smidge woozy after the second one, which could have been the heat & my activity level (summer, you know). No other issues.

Skip the anti-vaccine rhetoric and check out CrystalDave's CDC link.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2014

Also, not the best sources, but Snopes debunks the Gardisil warnings and Forbes says Gardisil is Good.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Chiming in with the anecdata since you're asking for personal experiences. All 3 courses of Gardasil were exactly like every other vaccination I've ever received: my arm was slightly sore and I'm now more protected from disease.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:22 AM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I see nothing but horror stories.

OP, so often we see what we want to see. Don't borrow trouble.

I was born in 1976, which unfortunately means I'm too old to qualify for insurance-paid-for Gardasil. Your post has inspired me to look into finding a health care provider who will give Gardasil to a woman my age, so for that, I thank you.
posted by hush at 3:49 PM on June 28, 2014

I got the shots about seven years ago (for free through Planned Parenthood because of my low income at the time). I had zero problems.
posted by limeonaire at 6:53 PM on June 28, 2014

Australian Government foot the bill for all girls/young women in a certain age bracket to get the shots. I lined up for mine with the other 500+ girls in my high school. Worse thing anyone reported was the typically hysteria resulting from a fear of needles. Pros - got out of class for an hour and got to watch a movie in the recovery area set up in the dorm common room, no HPV. Cons - had to listen to whiny girls tell everyone how "they just can't do needles" even though they were fine
posted by Saebrial at 9:44 PM on June 28, 2014

My personal experience was that each shot hurt and was sore for about a week, but that it was negligible in the overall state of things. I'm also that person who's allergic to like, every freaking medication and chemical on earth- from penicillin to sulfates to bupropion (let's not even get into the foods I can't eat and animals I can't even pet), so for me not to have bad reaction to a vaccine, that was a big deal. To add to all that, I don't know anyone who has had an adverse reaction to gardasil, either.

For everything I do that's potentially risky, I compare to car accidents. As far as I know, riding in a car is the riskiest thing I do (percentage-wise) yet it's necessary- it's not like I can bike or fly to the IKEA that's 150 miles away. But when it's something that has the potential to cause me adverse effects yet will protect my health, like Gardasil, then I'll do it in a heathbeat. To me, taking a vaccine for an STD that may lead to cancer is necessary.

When I think of Gardasil I remember this comment from a few years ago. It sticks with you- "We cured a cancer!" That may not be entirely true, but man, how inspiring it is to think that it could be.
posted by mollywas at 1:28 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had the shots probably 4 years ago with no side effects.
posted by SarahElizaP at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2014

I got all the shots in the past two years and had no issue other than I do not like shots! But the reason people write horror stories on the internet is because my story (shots hurt but I am a grown-up and can deal) is pretty boring and no one cares.
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:26 AM on June 30, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice everyone. When I first received the shot it was very sore for a few minutes and that was it.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 8:01 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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