CDC Report Stirs Controversy For Merck's Gardasil Vaccine

Dr. Joseph Zanga, chief of pediatrics at the Columbus Regional Healthcare System in Columbus, Ga., pointed out that Gardasil does not prevent women from contracting HPV in every instance, that many people who are infected will spontaneously rid themselves of the virus, and that routine pap smears are still the best prevention against cervical cancer.

"Perhaps the most important, currently missing 'warning' is that the vaccine may not be forever," Zanga said. "We know that it protects for 5-7 years so that a girl getting the series at [age] 11-12 will enter the time of her most likely sexual debut unprotected but believing herself to be."

Many Doctors Will Continue to Provide Gardasil

Dr. L. Stewart Massad, the Practice and Ethics Committees chair for the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, said his organization has educated thousands of clinicians about the risks of HPV and the Gardasil vaccine.

"We based our education [program] criteria on data from the CDC's risk assessment," he said. "Certainly there are differences of opinion when it comes to how adverse events are, you have to balance the risk for each patient."

Massad also noted that the ASCCP was unable to secure government or other non-profit funding for education outreach programs when the vaccine was first introduced and turned instead to private companies, including Merck, which manufactures Gardasil.

Further Investigation of Adverse Reports Needed

Harper said that the next step in determining the severity of the risks associated with the Gardasil vaccine would be for the CDC to investigate the reported adverse events and verify a causal relationship. But this may prove a difficult task, she said, because many of those events were reported by Merck and did not include sufficient information to perform an investigation.

Still, the report is unlikely to prevent most doctors from continuing to provide the vaccine to patients.

"There are 772 serious problems identified in 23 million doses of vaccine," said Dr. Kevin Ault, associate professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University. "I usually tell my patients that these serious events are tragic, rare and likely unrelated to the vaccine."

ABC News' Tyeese Gaines-Reid contributed to this report.

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