Genital warts. Cervical cancer. Vaginal disease. All these afflictions are caused by the human papillomavirus. Recently, women have had an opportunity to decrease their chances of contracting the virus as a result of the new three-dose vaccine from Merck & Co. Inc. called Gardasil.
In recent news, however, the adequacy of the warning label provided by the Center for Disease Control has been tested by the public, as numerous complaints of side effects have surfaced after patients received their HPV vaccinations.
As of now, a report has stated that over 500 people have complained of post-vaccination side effects such as fainting and dizziness, and there have been three recorded cases of the Guillain-Barré syndrome. According to health professionals, the syndrome is a rare disorder within the nervous system that sometimes causes complete paralysis.
In response, the CDC has ruled against running additional tests on the product or placing extra warnings on the vaccines' labels.
Dr. Michelle Famula, program director at the Cowell Student Health Center, said at UC Davis there have been approximately 200 shots of the cervical cancer vaccine given out to patients that have not yet caused concern.
"Whenever anyone asks us about the vaccine, we tell them it has tremendous efficacy and antibody results," Famula said. "We follow the initial practices as are approved by the CDC and if there is ever a problem or concern about its safety, we respond appropriately."
Adrienne Wonhof, assistant director at the UC Davis Women's Resources and Research Center, said the staff is glad such a vaccine has been developed to prevent HPV and cervical cancer.
"We encourage campus women to visit [the health center] or their doctor to determine if it's appropriate for them," Wonhof said. "We also hope the cost for the vaccine will allow for women in all income groups to get vaccinated if they choose."
Stephanie Nuccitelli, student coordinator for the Health Education and Promotion on-campus internship, said she thinks it is important for a vaccine to be tested for its safety and the seriousness of its side effects.
"The HPV vaccine is a great tool for students to be able to protect themselves from cervical cancer and genital warts," Nuccitelli said. "However, they must realize that it only protects against certain strains of the HPV virus, so using condoms and getting tested for STIs is still very important."
CDC officials plan to further discuss the health effects of women who opt for the vaccine and how it should be further advertised and distributed at an observance in Atlanta focused solely on women's health issues from now through Apr. 6.
"We definitely recommend the vaccine to women who come in to see us," Famula said. "The vaccine is approved for women ages 9 to 26, but if other people wish to have it, we can still immunize them. We also try to educate those who have probably not yet had exposure to the virus - those who are not yet sexually active."