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Day 16 of Our 31 Day Series of How Medicine Got It Wrong

Understanding Gardasil and the HPV Vaccine:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to serious health problems such as genital warts and certain types of cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 14 million people become infected with HPV each year in the United States alone. To combat this virus, the Gardasil vaccine was developed and has been recommended by healthcare professionals for years.

What is Gardasil?

Gardasil is a vaccine that helps protect against HPV. The vaccine is designed to protect against several strains of the virus that can lead to cancer and genital warts. There are two versions of the Gardasil vaccine: Gardasil 9, which protects against nine different strains of HPV, and Gardasil, which protects against four strains. Both vaccines are given in a series of two or three shots over a period of six months.

Who should get the Gardasil vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all boys and girls receive the Gardasil vaccine at age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active. The vaccine is most effective when given before exposure to the virus. However, Gardasil can still provide protection for those who have already been exposed to some strains of HPV.

It is important to note that the Gardasil vaccine is not just for girls. Boys can also benefit from the vaccine, as HPV can lead to certain types of cancers in both sexes. In fact, the CDC recommends that boys receive the vaccine as well.

In some states, including California, there have been efforts to make the Gardasil vaccine mandatory for school-aged children. A bill in California, SB 866, allows minors 12 and older to consent to the vaccine without parental consent, similar to the hepatitis B vaccine. Another bill, AB 659, would require older students to have the HPV vaccine to attend school. These efforts are aimed at increasing vaccination rates and reducing the spread of HPV.

Is the Gardasil vaccine safe?

Like all vaccines, Gardasil can cause side effects, but the vast majority of these are mild and temporary. The most common side effects are pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Some people may also experience fever, headache, and nausea. Serious side effects are extremely rare.

The CDC and other health organizations have thoroughly studied the safety of the Gardasil vaccine and have found it to be safe and effective. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide, and the vast majority have had no serious side effects.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the HPV vaccine has an excellent safety record. While some parents may have concerns about the safety of the vaccine, studies have shown that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective in preventing HPV-related cancers and diseases.

The NCI also notes that the HPV vaccine has undergone extensive testing and monitoring by the FDA and CDC to ensure its safety. Like all vaccines, there may be some mild side effects such as redness or soreness at the injection site, but serious side effects are extremely rare.

It's important for parents to talk to their healthcare provider about any concerns they may have and to make an informed decision about getting their child vaccinated with Gardasil. In the end, the benefits of vaccination in preventing HPV-related cancers and diseases far outweigh any potential risks.


While there are efforts to make the vaccine mandatory in some states, it is important to discuss the vaccine with your healthcare provider and make an informed decision about whether or not to receive it.

Additionally, there are medical exemptions available for the HPV vaccine. Medical exemptions can be issued by a licensed physician and may be given if a child has a medical condition that makes it unsafe to receive the vaccine.

If you think your child may qualify for a medical exemption, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you understand your child's medical condition and determine if a medical exemption is appropriate.

However, it's important to note that medical exemptions are only given for legitimate medical reasons. There have been instances where fraudulent medical exemptions have been issued, which undermines the effectiveness of vaccination efforts and puts others at risk.

  • Gardasil 9 website:

  • California Department of Public Health website on HPV:

  • EdSource article on a proposed California bill requiring HPV vaccination for school attendance:,before%20entering%20the%20eighth%2Dgrade

  • California Senate Bill 866, which allows minors 12 and older to consent to the HPV vaccine:,as%20the%20hepatitis%20B%20vaccine

  • California Assembly Bill 659, which would require older students to have the HPV vaccine to attend school:

  • CDC website on HPV vaccine safety:

  • Medical Exemption:

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