The HPV Vaccine: What You Need to Know Today

8/1/13 at 12:00 AM | 49 Comments

Questions about HPV and whether getting the HPV vaccine will protect you and your children from getting cervical, throat, and other cancers are on the forefront of many people’s minds. The added interest is due in part to Michael Douglas’s announcement that his throat cancer was caused by the HPV virus, which he contracted while having oral sex. (More on this in a minute.) It is also August, and in the U.S., parents have to ensure that their children’s vaccines are up-to-date, because without them the children will be barred from attending school in the coming year. The fear and hysteria—and paperwork—around this issue make me doubt whether our society will ever be able to see the HPV vaccine issue objectively.

So let’s start with an important and irrefutable fact. The HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix do not prevent cervical cancer or any other type of cancer. They may protect you from contracting some strains of HPV for a period of time. Gardasil is genetically engineered to target the four most common strains of HPV known to be associated with cervical cancer, although there are 14 strains that are also implicated. (There are actually over 100 known HPV strains.) Cervarix targets fewer cervical-cancer-causing strains, but seems to offer better protection from genital warts than Gardasil.

Both vaccines also protect against anal and penile lesions to some extent, which is one reason why HPV vaccines are being heavily marketed to boys and young men.  But even a recent, highly-touted study that suggests that the rate of HPV lesions has decreased because of the vaccine is seriously flawed. The study included girls who had never had sex and also girls who had not been vaccinated!1

I am not a fan of vaccines, and have been particularly cautious about the HPV vaccines. I’ve written extensively about the fatal and debilitating side effects of Gardasil (and provide some recent data below). And since their approval in 2006, nothing has convinced me that the benefits of the HPV vaccine outweigh the risks—which are significant.2

And now I’m troubled by another aspect. Did you know that women require a booster shot every five years for Gardasil and every seven years for Cervarix? Or that no one seems to know whether the HPV vaccines provide coverage to males for more than two years? Yet, the pharmaceutical companies along with the mainstream medical community tout these vaccines as if they provide long-term protection.

A Little Perspective

Let me put the HPV/cervical cancer risk in perspective. According to the CDC, there are 9,710 new diagnoses of cervical cancer in the U.S. per year and 3,700 deaths, on average. Of these, about 70 percent are related to HPV. I say “related” because when a person’s natural immunity fails to clear HPV from the system, there is an immune problem, not an HPV problem. This, in combination with his smoking and alcohol habits, is why Michael Douglas was unable to clear the virus from his system (in my opinion). So that narrows it down to 6, 790 cases. Most of these (but not all) could be prevented through regular pap smears.

The death rate from cervical cancer in the U.S. is 3 out of 100,000 women. The rate of serious adverse events from Gardasil is about 3.4 per 100,000 doses.

If you really want to protect against cervical cancer, here are five things to do:

1.    Boost your immunity and adopt lifestyle habits that support your health overall.  This includes making sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. Studies show that those with optimal vitamin D levels cut their cancer risk (all causes) in half!

2.    Get regular pap smears—even if you’ve had the vaccine. A yearly pap is no longer recommended for most. Every three-five years is sufficient. Women who have had the vaccine can still contract cervical cancer.

3.    Practice safe sex. Use a condom, and talk about health concerns with your partner.

4.    If you’re already infected, don’t get an HPV vaccine! Remember—your own immunity will likely clear that virus from your system within two years.

5.    If you still plan to vaccinate, question the guidelines. Since Merck received FDA approval in 2006, they have marketed Gardasil to nine-year-old girls. Recently, they began marketing to eleven-year-old boys. It makes no sense to give your child a proven harmful substance to protect her from something she likely won’t even come in contact with for several years.  I agree with HPV vaccine expert Diane Harper, M.D., who points out that most HPV is contracted in young adults between the ages of 16 and 26, which is the optimal time for vaccination if you’re going to do it at all. (Dr. Harper was one of the principal investigators in the initial Gardasil trial.)

Bottom line: About 98 percent of HPV infections will resolve on their own within two years. (This is the reason why the American College of OB/GYN changed their pap smear recommendations to begin at age 20 instead of when a girl first became sexually active.) I agree with Diane Harper, M.D., who put it this way, “This is a sobering reality. Would a parent accept such a rate of serious adverse events if the same cancer prevention can occur with continued pap screening? Is there any acceptable level of risk of serious adverse events, including death, to prevent genital warts?”3 Women and girls deserve better. So, forego the vaccine!

Footnotes:

[1] Mercola, J., Oncology Dietitian Exposes Fraud in CDC’s HPV Vaccine Effectiveness Study, July 16, 2013

[2] As of August 13, 2012, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received 119 reports of death following HPV vaccination, as well as:

•    894 reports of disability

•    517 life-threatening adverse events

•    9,889 emergency room visits

•    2,781 hospitalizations

Those adverse reports started coming in shortly after the vaccine was fast-tracked. In August of 2009, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that the U.S Government has received more than 12,000 reports of adverse events associated with Gardasil immunization—72 of them considered serious, including 32 deaths. (B. A. Slades, et al, Postlicensure safety surveillance for quadrivalent human papilloma recombinant vaccine, JAMA, 302:7, August 19, 2009, pps 750-57. See also http://www.nvic.org/Vaccines-and-Diseases/HPV.aspx)

In July of this year, the Japanese government officially withdrew its support for the HPV because of the large number of adverse events associated with it.

[3] Death After Cervarix Propels HPV Vaccination Headlines Again, Medscape, September 30 2009: updated October 1, 2009, Available online at www.medscape.com/viewarticle/709718

FILED UNDER: hpv, hpv vaccine, vaccine, gardasil, cervarix

Comments

I got HPV and warts in my late 20's. I am now in my early 40's and while I have had the occasional wart removed in my 30's, I've been wart free for a few years now. What is the likely hood that if I have sex with a safe partner (we both get tested first) that he will contract HPV and have warts? Thanks!

by Nancy on 8/1/13 at 7:11 AM

Dr. Northrup, I so appreciate your thoughts on this matter, I just wish I knew this information about a month ago when I started with the first shot of three on my two daughters. If I knew then what I've learned over the last month I too wouldn't have started them on this vaccine. Unfortunately I have and now my question to you is, should I continue and finish the last two rounds of shots or should I stop now with only the first shot in their system? So confused! Karen

by Karen on 8/1/13 at 7:25 AM

Hi Dr. Northrup, Am very happy to know that someone has the same conviction as I do. There is a huge pharma campaign here in the Philippines, celebrities endorse it, even with the all girls school my 3 girls are going to has promoted HPV vaccine. I never did allowed our daughters precisely for the same reasons. It is not safe and it is not cheap. Thank you for writing this.

by Joy Dawis Asuncion on 8/1/13 at 7:31 AM

Beautifully and clearly written! Why subject a girl to such possible effects when pap smears can provide the information needed and then wait for the virus to resolve on its own? Many factors must be considered, such as the child's health. This is an engine driven by money which gathered steam along the way. Fear is such a motivator when it comes to vaccines and kids. it's a shame more do not look at the facts and review the whole process.

by Veronica on 8/1/13 at 8:00 AM

Great article Dr. Northrup. This is something I have been reading about and review as my boys are just reaching puberty and my daughter will be there one day. I have always been cautious about immunizing my children and opted for an extended immunization schedule rather than the government prescribed one. Thank you for the information and giving me even more confidence and courage to not immunize my children using these vaccines. Love and Hugs

by Beverly on 8/1/13 at 4:13 PM

"Gardasil ... target the four most common strains of HPV known to be associated with cervical cancer, although there are 14 strains that are also implicated... Cervarix targets fewer cervical-cancer-causing strains, but seems to offer better protection from genital warts than Gardasil." Gardasil protects against HPV 6 and 11 which cause genital warts. Both Gardasil and Cervarix protect against cancer associated HPV 16 and 18. There are 15 cancer associated HPV types.

by Dr Dave Hawkes PhD on 8/2/13 at 1:17 AM

If you have already had one shot, there's no need to continue. But check in with your inner guidance on this one. And if you haven't had warts in a decade, chances are very good that your immune system has cleared the virus. There is ALWAYS the chance of passing on a virus to a sexual partner. But over time, when immunity is solid, this most likely won't be a problem. The issue is how safe and secure one feels in his or her own skin. Seriously. The immune system picks up on all of this!!

by Christiane Northrup on 8/3/13 at 2:06 PM

How judgmental your article is. I am 49. I have a healthy lifestyle. My husband of 20 years slept with others during our marriage. 80% of people will contract some form of hpv. Most will clear it. Some will not. Your article suggests i am at fault for my body not being able to clear hpv. How smug. Today I am recovering from multiple biopsies of my cervix, endocervix and endometrium under general anesthesia. I didn't cause or ask for this. This is an epic health problem for our generation.

by Johnson MD on 8/3/13 at 3:21 PM

I don't know if this vaccine is safe or not, but since hpv is associated with every cervical cancer and many head and neck cancers, and anal cancers, then yes, if you can prevent hpv infection, and the non-clearing of hpv, that will prevent cancer. A+b does equal C here. We need a safe vaccine. I was never tested for this until 2011. Women, ask your gynecologist for the hpv test so you have proper surveillance. This can stay with you for years. There is no hpv test for men.

by Johnson MD on 8/3/13 at 3:24 PM

Dr. Northrup says "The death rate from cervical cancer in the U.S. is 3 out of 100,000 women. The rate of serious adverse events from Gardasil is about 3.4 per 100,000 doses." This is true, but misleading. She should have said "The lifetime death rate from cervical cancer in the U.S. is 235 out of 100,000 women. No deaths have been proven to be due to Gardasil, but the lifetime death rate from Gardasil is estimated to be less than 1 out of 100,000 women."

by Dan Kegel on 8/3/13 at 9:19 PM

Dr. Northrup writes "The HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix do not prevent cervical cancer or any other type of cancer." But this is misleading. Gardasil prevents infections with the two strains of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancer... and thus will prevent about 70% of cervical cancer.

by Dan Kegel on 8/3/13 at 9:37 PM

I had all three of my daughters vaccinated with no negative results. I think this is just one opinion.

by Jennifer on 8/6/13 at 10:59 AM

I appreciate everyone is allowed an opinion and they need to make a choice right for them based on their beliefs. I went and had the vaccine after watching my cousin die from cervical cancer. If I ever have daughters they will be first in line.

by Joanne on 8/7/13 at 4:47 AM

Love the article. Question: if you have vag lesions, what is a natural treatment and what ways do you recommend to boost immunity in this case? Thank you! Namaste.

by Anna on 8/7/13 at 4:55 AM

Thank you Dr. Northrup for an insightful article on the cons of HPV vaccines available. Although the risk of both Gardasil and Cervarix vaccine is rather small for the general population, those with compromised immunity or predisposition to autoimmune diseases are at higher risk. The pros and cons of receiving three doses of either vaccine needs to be considered individually, an ideal opportunity for education. I agree that a clear benefit of immunizing boys has not been demonstrated.

by Jan H Stafl MD FACOG ABIHM on 8/7/13 at 5:07 AM

For most young women with multiple sexual partners, esp. before age 18, the vaccines make sense if they can be given before the onset of sexual activity. That is because cervical squamous metaplasia is mostly completed at age 18, and if an oncogenic strain of HPV is present before that, the rates of cervical dysplasia and risk of squamous cell carcinoma is significantly increased. Girls who wait to have sex till age 18 are obviously protected from pregnancy, STD's and emotional trauma.

by Jan H Stafl MD FACOG ABIHM on 8/7/13 at 5:16 AM

Understanding that it is possible to risk stratify, and use this opportunity for sex education of young girls and boys, is not a prudish statement, but one based on solid science. Everyone agrees that regardless of receiving the vaccines, cytologic screening with Pap smears, with frequency TBD by high risk HPV status, is indicated. Dr. Northrup is correct that HPV clearance is very dependent on the robustness of individual immune responses, which are quite amenable to lifestyle choices.

by Jan H Stafl MD FACOG ABIHM on 8/7/13 at 5:23 AM

Dan - your point is also misleading... Gardasil does not prevent 70% of cervical cancer simply because it prevents infection from 2 strains of HPV. The best statistic would be the number of deaths of cancer by people who have been vaccinated with Gardasil. Have to wait and be guinea pigs until those stats come out.

by Karen on 8/7/13 at 7:04 AM

Its apparent on here how much bullying from the medical field goes on to get vaccinated! I felt no need for my 13 year old to be under the risk of adverse effects from a vaccine that will only have to be given again in five years which is still BEFORE she ever has engaged in sex!

by Beth on 8/7/13 at 7:16 AM

I am disapointed in Dr. Northrup's article. It is very biased with twisted facts and half truths. I unfortunately will have to look at the rest of her work in the same way now.

by erica on 8/7/13 at 7:19 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your well researched article. The risks are just too heavy with this, women have died from this vaccine. I'm older now but got HPV some years ago and it completely cleared from my system by taking care of myself and my immunity. The idea that it automatically leads to cancer is completely fear based only resulting huge profit for big pharma. I would never take this risk with my children.

by D on 8/7/13 at 7:23 AM

As an HPV-16-caused cancer patient, I'm very disappointed by your negatively biased opinion--a serious disservice to your devoted readers! I was your fan for years. In clinical trials at Johns Hopkins I helped make these products effective and safer. Anti-vac. voices have been yelling since medicine first developed life-saving immunizations; so sad that you've joined their ranks. The HPV vac would've prevented my cancer and that of many who are no longer alive to write to you.

by Kanga on 8/7/13 at 8:31 AM

I was just at my peditrician last week with my 15 year old son and declined the vaccine as I feel it is not safe. She actually had not given it to her own daughter last year. I told her that not giving it to her daghter spoke volumes to me. My 10 year old daughter also will not be getting it. They can decide for themselves later on. As for me I am going with my gut onthis one! Thanks for the information.

by Sharon Gilbert on 8/7/13 at 11:08 AM

And what did your pap smear tell you and your Doctor about this cancer? You were having them regularly, wern't you?

by Bonnie on 8/7/13 at 1:07 PM

I was under the impression that viruses don't cause cancer; rather, that a suppressed immune system allowed "cancer" to develop. Nice try (not), Kanga. Erica, what are the "twisted facts and half truths" of Dr. Northrup? Dan Kegel, how does one calculate the lifetime death rate from Gardasil? I'm still weighing in on this vaccine issue.

by Mary B on 8/7/13 at 9:20 PM

Thank you for this article. That's all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something special. You clearly know what you are doing, you've covered so many bases.Thanks! lilliput http://lilliput.cn/

by lilliput on 8/8/13 at 6:59 PM

Great article but the real issue is to understand how body-mind work and how illnesses develop in our body. META-Health provides these answers. Read www.meta-health.org...... But I also understand that many people are just so afraid about cancer and want the virus, bacteria or whatever might cause a cancer to appear) to be disappear. Unfortunately it is not that easy...

by Johannes on 8/9/13 at 12:54 AM

I work a lot with women who have cervical dysplasia and HPV, as well as with their partners. I utilize immune boosting herbs and supplements and support my patients to choose a healthy diet and lifestyle. These interventions combined with vaginal suppositories, cervical escharotic treatments and penis soaks have helped many of my patients to have normal subsequent Pap tests and negative HPV tests (some of them going on 6+ years now).

by Dr Natalie Metz Naturopathic Doctor on 8/9/13 at 1:43 AM

One thing I would like to point out is that Gardasil is a quadrivalent vaccine for HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18- types 6 & 11 are more commonly associated with genital warts while 16 & 18 are more commonly associated with cervical cancer. Cervarix is bivalent- only for HPV types 16 & 18. There are many more strains associated with the development of both genital warts and cervical cancer, which are not included in these vaccines.

by Dr Natalie Metz Naturopathic Doctor on 8/9/13 at 1:44 AM

I am also an advocate of yearly Pap testing. I do not agree that women should be tested every 3-5 years. I have seen patients progress from having a normal PAP to severe dysplasia in one year's time. Although this process is usually much slower, HPV infection, poor diet, cigarette smoking, alcohol use and especially STRESS can accelerate this process. It seems silly to wait so long to find out if an abnormality is emerging in the cells of the cervix.

by Dr Natalie Metz Naturopathic Doctor on 8/9/13 at 1:45 AM

I don’t agree with the vaccine at all! Also don't agree w/giving HPV clearing as a sense of security.Fighting cervical & vulvar cancer 15 years now,I say: if you're sexually active,get an annual pap.Don't count on it clearing. I’ve never been a drinker,smoker,nor a drug user--yet the HPV strains I contracted didn’t clear &still keep resurfacing!It’s a never-ending, horrifying battle that has lead to having my lady parts surgically maimed & severely ruining my quality of life-& I caught it early!

by Surviving Cervical Cancer on 8/9/13 at 11:43 AM

@ Kegel, What is a 'lifetime death rate'? Using online USA gov stats: 3,909 women died of cervical cancer in USA 2009; 311 million population in 2011. Assuming even male:female, that’s roughly 4,000 deaths in 150 000 000 women, about 4 deaths in 150 00. Very approximate but close to Dr Northrup's figures. Where do your figures come from? Generally the epidemiological data suggests that measures other than vaccine have caused drop in most infectious/contagious diseases.

by Carly S on 8/9/13 at 12:23 PM

Remember-- vaccines and immunity are first chakra issues-- related to our sense of safety and security in the world as well as our sense of belonging. The information in this article challenges a widely held belief-- that vaccines keep us safe. And beliefs directly-- and powerfully-- affect immunity. I urge each of you to take a deep breath and allow your inner wisdom to guide your actions around Gardisil and everything else in front of you.

by Christiane Northrup on 8/9/13 at 1:45 PM

My daughter had this vaccine and suffered devastating neurological side effects. It has changed the course of her life. Please, please, educate yourself before getting this vaccine. I am part of a group that has found each other via Facebook-there are so many of our daughters that have been injured! I believed I was doing the right thing and regret this decision as her mother more than I can say.

by Mellisa on 8/9/13 at 7:46 PM

Gardasil may increase risk of cancer: - Lack of carcinogenicity testing. - Replacement. - Aluminium bound recombinant DNA (rDNA). - Girls previously infected with the HPV virus who then get vaccinated have increased risk of cervical cancer. Considering that Gardasil is sometimes inappropriately termed a cancer vaccine, it may be an ironic stroke of fate if the vaccine is shown to be the cause of a cancer epidemic.

by Mindanoiha on 8/10/13 at 10:36 AM

I am the mother of a daughter who didnt know of the vacinne in time nor was it readily available and ten years later she still suffers from non-clearing HPV despite a healthy lifestyle. I worry about her young future everyday. Luckily my two younger daughters are protected.

by Lou on 8/23/13 at 3:28 AM

This very Scary at this generation also 5,000 women's died each year in the US with Cervical Cancer. two viceancs are available to prevent this cancer but lack of awareness creating this situation.

by Sadi on 9/21/13 at 9:27 PM

Gardasil may increase risk of cancer: - Lack of carcinogenicity testing of the vaccine. - Replacement (virus strains removed by the vaccine may be replaced by cancer causing strains). - Presence of aluminium bound recombinant DNA (rDNA), the consequences of which are unknown. - Those who are previously infected with the HPV virus and then get vaccinated have increased risk of cervical cancer. It may be an ironic stroke of fate if the vaccine is shown to be the cause of a cancer epidemic.

by Mindanoiha on 10/8/13 at 11:15 AM

Hi Dr Northrup, I did a pap smear in Sept, it was discovered that I had HPV. I was not told to do a HPV test but to repeat the pap smear in 6 months time. I didnt know what was HPV, after reading more online, I have a few questions: 1) Should I go to get a HPV test NOW to know what strain I have?

by Darcy on 11/2/13 at 9:26 PM

2) I have a monogamous relationship with boyfriend, I am on pills and we only want to have unprotected sex. He is probably infected with HPV too. We are both non smoker and drink socially, eats healthy, we should have good immune system. Should we just go on with unprotected sex, because even if I try to clear the virus, how do I know that he will not pass it back to me since there is no method to test HPV on a man.

by Darcy on 11/2/13 at 9:27 PM

3) I will take folic acid and vit D supplements now. Will it help my bf to clear HPV if he takes them too? Appreciate your insight and many thanks, Darcy

by Darcy on 11/2/13 at 9:27 PM

I am suffering from the effects after. I feel like I have the body of and 80 year old and I am 26. I am not the same person I used to be, don't do this to your children at any age. I received it at 21.

by Jen on 11/11/13 at 5:08 PM

Thank you for your insight on this matter. If my daughter already had 2 shots, can we discontinue the third?

by Karen on 12/1/13 at 11:27 AM

I don't know if it is directly related but my perfectly healthy 16 year old son had the Gardasil shot upon the advice of his pediatrician and 4 months later he died. He had no other medical problems. I have been suspicious of this vaccination ever since my son's unt imely death.

by Jo Ann M on 12/3/13 at 7:15 AM

I have only had 1 so far and I was to scared to have the second one what should I do cause I have now mist the chance to get number two ??? should I get number 3 before number 2??

by emma on 12/3/13 at 8:44 AM

My daughter has lost all her hair and her periods have stopped as a direct result of the HPV vaccine. I know this as having voiced my opinion we are now being treated as lepers by the medical profession.

by Julie on 12/16/13 at 11:23 AM

I vaccinated my teenage son about 4 years ago. He is now 17. Just found out of the side effects and am very worried. He is always very tired, he falls asleep in class and when he comes home the first thing he does is to go to bed. Adding to that he is just tired! Is there a way to stop this side effects that seems to continue over a lifetime? Please help! I'm so worried.

by Virginia on 12/16/13 at 11:25 AM

I read once awhile ago that Japan took it off their market because they found that it causes boys to be sterile. Of course, I can't find that article now that everyone is talking about it. My sons are 19 & 14. I have raised them to respect the ladies. My oldest is waiting until marriage for sex. Hopefully my youngest follows suit. Therefore, I can see no reason for this vaccine. Am I a bad mom?

by cheryl on 1/17/14 at 12:31 PM

My fiance's wife died of cervical cancer r/t HPV three years ago. She was diagnosed with HPV 15 years ago. After treatment her pap smears were negative. Turns out 7 years ago, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. We understand there is no test for men. He has never had warts. Is it possible he has cleared this virus? My Paps are negative.

by kathy on 1/26/14 at 9:54 PM

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