Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy

The HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, especially Gardasil (or Silgard, depending on market), has been targeted by the anti-vaccine religion more than just about any other vaccine being used these days. So many people tell me that they give their children all the vaccines, but refuse to give them the HPV vaccine based on rumor and innuendo on the internet. This article provides all the posts I’ve written about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

As many of regular readers know, I focus on just a few topics in medicine, with my two favorites being vaccines and cancer – of course, the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine combines my two favorite topics. Here’s one thing that has become clear to me – there are no magical cancer prevention schemes. You are not going to prevent any of the 200 different cancers by drinking a banana-kale-quinoa smoothie every day. The best ways to prevent cancer are to quit smoking, stay out of the sun, keep active and thin, get your cancer-preventing vaccines, and following just a few more recommendations.

The benefits of the vaccine are often overlooked as a result of two possible factors – first, there’s a disconnect between personal activities today and cancer that could be diagnosed 20-30 years from now; and second, people think that there are significant dangers from the vaccine which are promulgated by the anti-vaccine religion.

It’s frustrating and difficult to explain Gardasil safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about safety and long-term efficacy of the vaccine. That’s why I have written nearly 200 articles about Gardasil safety and efficacy, along with debunking some ridiculous myths about the cancer-preventing vaccine. This article serves to be a quick source with links to most of those 200 articles.

And if you read nothing else in this review of Gardasil, read the section entitled “Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer” – that will link you to two quick to read articles that summarize the best evidence in support of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

All about HPV and Gardasil

Many of you have read this section an enormous number of times, however, for some of the readers of this blog, this article might be their first bit of research into the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. I feel it is important to a new reader to review the facts behind the human papillomavirus, the HPV vaccines, and HPV-related cancers. This section is constantly updated for even regular readers, but you can skip ahead if you know all of this.

Genital and oral  HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the USA.  HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

It’s important to note that there are more than 150 strains or subtypes of HPV that can infect humans – however, only 40 of these strains are linked to one or more different cancers. Although the early symptoms of HPV infections aren’t serious and many HPV infections resolve themselves without long-term harm, HPV infections are causally linked to many types of cancers in men and women. According to current medical research, here are some of the cancers that are linked to HPV:

These are all dangerous and disfiguring cancers that can be mostly prevented by the HPV cancer vaccine. If you’re a male, and you think that these are mostly female cancers, penile cancer can lead to amputation of your penis. Just think about that guys.

There is also some fairly strong evidence that HPV infections might be linked to prostate and some skin cancers, which would vastly increase the number of HPV-related cancers diagnosed every year. The HPV vaccine could be one of the best prevention tools for cancer we’ve ever found.

HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous as tobacco in that respect. According to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV – approximately 14 million Americans contract a new HPV every year. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. The CDC also states that over 31,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.

There were two HPV vaccines on the world market before 2014. GSK, also known as GlaxoSmithKline manufactured Cervarix, a bivalent (protects against two HPV strains) vaccine. It has been withdrawn from the US market (although available in many other markets), because of the competition from the quadrivalent (immunizes against four different HPV strains) and 9-valent (against nine HPV strains) Gardasil vaccines.

Merck manufactures Gardasil, probably the most popular HPV vaccine in the world. The first version of the vaccine, quadrivalent Gardasil, targets the two HPV genotypes known to cause about 70% of cervical cancer and two other HPV genotypes that cause genital warts. In Europe and other markets, Gardasil is known as Silgard.

The newer Gardasil 9, approved by the FDA in 2014, is a 9-valent vaccine, protecting against HPV Types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. It targets the four HPV strains found in the quadrivalent version, along with five additional ones that are linked to cervical and other HPV-related cancers. Both versions of Gardasil are prophylactic, meant to be given to females or males before they become exposed to possible HPV infection through intimate contact.

Gardasil is one of the easiest and best ways to prevent a few deadly cancers that are related to HPV. It is definitely a cancer-preventing vaccine.

(Just a quick note. There are actually two cancer-preventing vaccines. Along with the HPV vaccines, the hepatitis B vaccine is also important for the prevention of some cancers.  The vaccine prevents hepatitis B viral infections. Chronic hepatitis B infections can lead to liver cirrhosis or cancer. Liver cancer is actually one of the few cancers in the USA where the incidence has increased over the past few years. And if you follow the anti-vaccine rhetoric, you know the hepatitis B vaccine is almost as controversial as the HPV vaccine.)

Currently, in the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that preteen girls and boys aged 11 or 12 are vaccinated against HPV. The immunization is also recommended for teenage girls and young women up to the age of 26 who did not receive it when they were younger, and teenage boys and young men up to the age of 21.

Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer

As you can see, there’s a metric tonne of information about Gardasil that I have written over the past six years. So, I wrote and published one article that summarizes the safety evidence, and another article that does the same for effectiveness. If you only have time for these articles, you can have substantial and robust evidence in support of the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine’s safety and efficacy:

These two articles summarize the best peer-reviewed research regarding the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. So, if you’re “researching” information about Gardasil, those two articles will get you started. If you’re trying to convince your sister to get her children vaccinated, those articles could be an easy way to get the discussion going using scientific evidence.

I won’t be going on a thin limb by stating that Gardasil is extraordinarily safe, and it is also extremely effective in preventing cancer. Those two articles summarize the robust data supporting those two claims.

However, I don’t want to ignore the thousands of hours I put into all of the articles I’ve written about HPV vaccines, so I’ve summarized most of them below. They are in sections to allow you to find the right article for the right conversation.

Gardasil safety

Large Gardasil safety studies

Gardasil prevents cancer

Gardasil safety and the law

Japan and Gardasil safety

The Japanese Health Ministry seems to love myths, so there has been a big kerfuffle in that country regarding HPV cancer-preventing vaccine. Here are my articles that focus on that country’s activities with the HPV vaccine.

Diane Harper

Other “researchers” against Gardasil safety

Gardasil and promiscuity

Gardasil myths

Other topics

Gardasil safety – summary

As I’ve said a thousand times, there are no debates about vaccines, and certainly none about Gardasil safety and efficacy. The real science, published in real medical journals, and reviewed by experts in epidemiology, virology, infectious diseases, cancer, and other biomedical researchers, is all that matters. This is overwhelming evidence that supports the scientific consensus on Gardasil safety and efficacy.

Let’s be clear. Gardasil prevents cancer. And Gardasil safety is supported by massive evidence. Every teenager in the USA, where the vaccine is essentially free (drop a comment if you can’t get it for free, and I’ll point you in the right direction), should get the vaccine.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2014. It will be constantly updated to include new articles about Gardasil and other HPV vaccines.

Full disclosure – I have not nor have I ever been an employee or executive of the Merck or GSK family of companies. I do not own any shares of stock in Merck or GSK. I don’t get paid by anyone to do this, hence I have to beg regularly for help from my loyal readers to keep this website going. I just care about ways to prevent cancer which include the HPV vaccines.

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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!