Merck is the developer of the HPV vaccine Gardasil. The company has an independent website, www.gardasil.com, devoted to explaining the product, complete with social marketing tools to “help spread the word about cervical cancer and HPV.” It features responses to “Questions about what you are hearing,” as well as a vertical labeled “More for parents.”
Throughout the site, certain information appears with regularity. Merck states that their product is “the only cervical cancer vaccine that helps protect against four types of human papilloma virus (HPV). Two types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases; two types that cause 90% of genital warts cases.”
The vaccine is targeted at girls and women from 9 – 26. It is administered in three injections over a six-month period. It is acknowledged that the vaccine does not provide full protection for everyone, or for all types of cervical cancer. Merck endorses continued pap smears.
Regarding adverse reactions, Merck stresses that those who are severely allergic to yeast or women who are pregnant should not receive the vaccine. It also warns of potential reaction for those who may be sensitive to the “other” ingredients found in the vaccine.
Possible side effects listed include “swelling, itching, bruising, redness at injection site, headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and fainting.” It is noted that fainting can be accompanied by falling, shaking, stiffening, or other seizure-like activity. Patients are advised to remain in the doctor’s office for fifteen minutes after receiving the shot, for observation.
I spoke with Media Relations spokesperson, Pam Eisele, about the vaccine. I submitted a series of questions for the company to answer via e-mail, referencing red flags that had come up in my research. All my queries were responded to, and Eisele offered to put me in touch with a clinical researcher if I required further explanations.