By: Barbara Hollingsworth
Local Opinion Editor
March 30, 2010
Cervical cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer deaths, so it was somewhat surprising when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked approval of Gardasil, a Merck vaccine targeting the human papilloma virus that causes the disease, in 2006.
As of Jan. 31, 2010, 49 unexplained deaths following Gardasil injections have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (http://vaers.hhs.gov/index). By contrast, 52 deaths are attributed to unintended acceleration in Toyotas, which triggered a $2 billion recall.
No recall for Gardasil, which is required for sixth-grade girls in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and many other states. Parents can opt out, but few know the true risks.
That was the certainly the case for Mary Davison of Frederick, Md., whose three daughters had the second of a three-shot vaccination regimen in January 2008. Her two younger girls had no reactions, but 20-year-old Mary Katherine felt sick and dizzy.
A subsequent magnetic resonance imaging scan showed that the Hood College student had a major stroke, and she spent almost two months in rehab before she could walk again. However, it wasn't until the family's primary care physician refused to schedule Mary Katherine's third injection that her mom "finally put two and two together," she told the Washington Examiner.
A month later, Lisa Ericzon of Alexandria Bay, N.Y., found her 17-year-old daughter Jessica dead on the bathroom floor just 40 hours after her third Gardasil injection. The coroner listed the cause as "undetermined natural causes."
Jessica had pain and dizziness following her second Gardasil shot. "At the time, we didn't think about any connection with the vaccination," Ericzon told me. "But later, when I got on the Internet, I found all of the side effects Jessica complained about and three other women told me their daughters had also died within days of being vaccinated."
One of those women was Emily Tarsell, of Sparks, Md., whose 21-year-old daughter Christina died 18 days after receiving her final Gardasil injection and experiencing fatigue, dizziness, and a pounding heartbeat. "We had no clue that these were all symptoms of something," her mother said. Neither an autopsy or toxicology screen could determine the cause of death.
An October 2008 CDC report said 28 million girls and women who received Gardasil had no more adverse medical outcomes than those who hadn't gotten the shots. But in February 2009, the National Vaccine Information Center (nvic.org) used CDC's own data to contradict the government's findings: Gardasil was associated "with at least four times as many death and cardiac arrest reports" as a similar vaccine, and "seemed to be associated with an unusually high number of reports of atypical collapse. ..."
The August 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 89 percent of adverse Gardasil reactions submitted to VAERS had "insufficient identifying information to permit clinical follow-up or review."
Merck denies any of the deaths are related to its vaccine, and the parents involved can't prove they were. A Merck spokeswoman would only refer me to the VAERS Web site.
"CDC is still saying this is a safe vaccine. With Pap smears, there was no medical reason for fast-tracking FDA approval. They made it sound like it was some kind of pandemic," Tarsell added. "No one ever calls you, no one ever follows up."
Indeed, two months after Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., asked CDC to contact Tarsell, she has yet to hear from them. The feds "totally ignored us," echoed Ericzon.
Barbara F. Hollingsworth is the Washington Examiner's local opinion editor.