Parents, Teens Question Safety of HPV Vaccine

By Scott Friedman
|  Monday, May 24, 2010  |  Updated 11:35 PM CDT
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Parents, Teens Question Safety of HPV Vaccine

AP

Two North Texas women report medical troubles after taking Gardasil, the HPV vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer.

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Parents, Teens Question Safety of HPV Vaccine

Two North Texas women report medical troubles after taking Gardasil, the HPV vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer.
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She was only 18 years old, but Ainsley Bailey suddenly found herself struggling just to get out of bed.

The Plano teenager said her medical troubles started the day after she received a first dose of Gardasil, the human papillomavirus vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer.

"It got to the point where I couldn't walk without screaming, the pain in my legs was so bad," said Bailey. 

Ainsley's mom, Gaynell Bailey, started keeping a daily journal documenting her daughter's symptoms, including abdominal pain, muscle pain, chest pain and chronic fatigue. There's no scientific evidence the vaccine caused her symptoms, but the Baileys believe there has to be a connection. 

"The reason I'm convinced is, I had a healthy daughter and the very next day, she started reacting," said Gaynell Bailey.

The family started searching for answers online and found other families with similar stories, such as John and Susan Flood, who live in Colleyville. Their daughter, Allison, was a college cross-country runner who suddenly got sick. 

"She looked like she had gained 30 pounds, with face and body swelling," said John Flood.

Allison Flood complained of heart palpitations, had sudden food allergies and even had unusual blood clotting. Medical tests have been unable to prove a connection to Gardasil. But the Floods said their daughter's troubles started shortly after she received the second dose of the three-dose course of vaccine.

"This is a kid who would go out a year and a half ago and run eight to 10 miles a day and was perfectly healthy," said John Flood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed in the United States. And the vaccine is widely recommended by pediatricians.

Dr. Marjorie Milici, a pediatrician at Baylor Medical Center, has been giving it to patients for nearly four years, and said she's never seen anything but mild, temporary reactions such as pain at the injection site or fainting. 

"I have not had anybody come back with any kind of immune problem or telling me something changed after they got the shot they didn't feel well,"  said Milici.

Milici has given the shot to one of her daughters and plans to have her other two daughters vaccinated when they are older.

In a statement, the vaccine maker, Merck, said, "We are confident in the safety profile of Gardasil."

The statement went on to say, "Parents should understand the extensive data supporting the safety profile of this vaccine, and we encourage them to look to the CDC and FDA and to the advice of their own physicians to make an informed choice."

Merck said it welcomes continued discussion about the safety of the vaccine and that the company continues to investigate all reports of possible side effects.

According to a CDC system that collects reports of vaccine reactions, 16,034 people have reported possible side effects from Gardasil. Ninety-two percent of the reported reactions were not serious, while 8 percent involved serious illness or even reports of death. But the CDC said it cannot conclude that the events reported were caused by the vaccine. And in a statement to patients on the agency website, the CDC said, "Based on all the information we have today, CDC recommends HPV vaccination."

But before deciding whether to vaccinate children, the Baileys and the Floods hope parents will read their stories. The families have joined others on a national website called "The Truth About Gardasil." 

One year after getting sick, Ainsley Bailey is felling better and back to pursuing a career in TV and movies.

Allison Flood is still being treated and has taken a leave from college as she tries to recover.

Families, convinced a vaccine to keep their daughters healthy made them sick.

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