Gabrielle had it all. Beautiful and smart, she was a varsity and competitive All-Star cheerleader … a gymnast … and an honor-roll student involved in leadership at her school.

Then her parents chose to get Gabi vaccinated with Gardasil.

Now, at just 15 years of age, she feels like she's trapped in the body of an old woman. She takes a beta-blocker for heart problems … aspirin to prevent another stroke … and other medications to battle her severe headaches and control her seizures. Her central nervous system is so inflamed that she could die unless the deterioration is somehow stopped.

But Gabrielle isn't alone.

After receiving Gardasil shots …

Christina, a 21-year-old athlete, artist and honor-roll student at Bard College - died suddenly and without explanation.
16-year-old Ashley regularly deals with life threatening episodes of seizure-like activity, difficulty breathing, back spasms, paralysis, dehydration, memory loss and tremors.

17-year-old Kristie had a Grand Mal seizure and has been diagnosed with auto-immune disease.

15-year-old Jade wasn't able to put pressure on her legs. She's had to undergo intense physical therapy to enable her to walk again.

Thirteen-year-old Jenny began experiencing muscle weakness. Within 15 months, she was almost completely paralyzed.

Previously healthy Megan began getting dizzy spells – and died suddenly. She was only 20 years old.

The vaccine-maker Merck & Co. and the CDC would be quick to point out that Gardasil hasn't been proven to cause these sicknesses and deaths. But the parents of these girls know just one thing …

… Their daughters were perfectly healthy – until they got the Gardasil vaccine.

Before you choose Gardasil, get the facts …
If you watch TV at all, you've been bombarded by commercials pitching Gardasil. So you probably already know that the vaccine …

Is recommended for girls and women ages 9 to 26 …
Is given as three injections over a period of six months …
Protects against four types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – two types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases and two more types that case 90% of genital warts cases, and …

Is 90 – 100% effective in preventing the transmission of these cancer-causing strains of HPV (according to clinical trials).
Sounds good, doesn't it?

The commercials also mention that Gardasil does not prevent ALL types of cervical cancer and may not fully protect everyone, but those two facts did not prevent the FDA from getting very excited about the vaccine.

In fact, the federal regulators were so thrilled with Gardasil's potential as a cervical cancer preventer that they agreed to give it a fast-track review – slashing the normal review process from ten months to a mere four months.

Gardasil was approved in June 2006 – a full three years before the FDA was expected to complete final studies.

But here's something the Gardasil commercials don't tell you …
Gardasil contains genetically engineered virus-like protein particles (VLPs) and aluminum, which are known to affect immune function.

Despite that fact, the fast-track review did not allow enough time for thorough study of the vaccine for safety and effectiveness before it was released to the general public.

Gardasil has not been evaluated for the potential to cause cancer or to be toxic to your genes. Nor was it adequately tested in 11 and 12-year-old girls before the CDC recommended that they get three doses of the vaccine. Merck only studied 1,200 girls under the age of 16, so there's not enough data to know if Gardasil is safe for that age group.

Now I'm not saying that you should NOT get the Gardasil vaccine. That choice is up to you. But I am saying that you need to get all the facts before you vaccinate yourself or your daughter – because only you can decide if the risks are worth the benefits.

And with Gardasil – as with all vaccines – there are some risks to your health …

Up to FOUR times more side effects reported with Gardasil compared to other vaccines …
When Gardasil was first approved, Merck had the audacity to claim that it was practically side-effect free.

The vaccine-maker has since changed its tune.

The Gardasil website now lists the following adverse reactions: Pain, swelling, itching, bruising, and redness at the injection site … headache … fever … nausea … dizziness … vomiting … and fainting.

Yes, fainting after the injection is a common side effect.

Alarmingly, the fainting is accompanied by falling with injury, as well as shaking or stiffening and other seizure-like activity. And some fainting episodes result in motor vehicle accidents, making it very dangerous for girls to drive home alone from the doctor's office after getting a Gardasil shot.

Now any vaccination that could make an 11-year-old girl faint or exhibit "seizure-like activity" should be a cause of concern. But other side effects have been reported that are even more disturbing.

As of the summer of 2009, more than 15,000 reports of Gardasil reactions have been made to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). And that number may be much higher due to the fact that less than 10% of adverse reactions are actually reported to VAERS.

Some of these side effects – while undesirable - are somewhat mild, like numbness and tingling … pain and weakness … hair loss … rashes … warts … and extreme fatigue.

Others are far more serious …

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) - GBS is an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves that can lead to temporary, yet total paralysis.
Paralysis (including Bell's Palsy) – Several reports of partial or total paralysis were received that have been linked to Gardasil. In some cases, paralysis led patients to fall into a coma.
Anaphylactic shock – Several girls experienced anaphylactic shock within minutes of receiving the vaccine. Anaphylactic shock is a severe type of allergic reaction that can be life threatening.
Grand Mal Seizure -In a few cases, patients experienced Grand Mal Seizure immediately after receiving Gardasil. Grand Mal Seizure involves a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.
Spontaneous Abortions or Miscarriages - Dozens of miscarriages have occurred following the administration of Gardasil. In all of the cases, the women were not aware that they were pregnant at the time they received Gardasil.
Blood Clots and Heart Failure - There have been several instances of blood clots and heart failure occurring after Gardasil was administered – especially with women on the pill. In some of these instances, the blood clots were fatal.
Death - As of the summer of 2009, 48 young women have died after getting the Gardasil shots. 14 of them were under 16 years old.
While the number of serious side effects is small and rare, Dr. Diane Harper of the University of Missouri – who was also a researcher in the Gardasil studies – says "the rate of serious adverse events is greater than the incidence rate of cervical cancer."

She feels the side effects of the Gardasil vaccine should not be overlooked. Instead, they should be fully disclosed to all possible vaccine recipients.

Barbara Loe Fisher, President of the National Vaccine Information Center, is also concerned about the adverse reactions associated with Gardasil. "There are twice as many children collapsing and four times as many children experiencing tingling, numbness and loss of sensation after getting a Gardasil vaccination compared to those getting a Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis) vaccination," she said.

Obviously, this is an issue that should NOT be ignored.

However, neither the FDA nor Merck seem willing to review Gardasil's safety. In fact, they're writing off the more serious Gardasil reaction reports as just a coincidence.

Gardasil can actually INCREASE your risk of cervical cancer …
This is something you WON'T hear in the Gardasil commercials.

You probably won't even hear it from your doctor.

But something important turned up in the Gardasil studies that you should know about …

FDA staff stated in Merck clinical trial data that there may be "the potential for Gardasil to enhance cervical disease in subjects who had evidence of persistent infection with vaccine-relevant HPV types prior to vaccination."

In regular English, that means if you're already HPV-positive when you get the vaccination, Gardasil actually INCREASES your risk of cervical cancer.

This critical – but often overlooked – fact is also stated on the package insert for Gardasil.

Unfortunately, girls and women being vaccinated with Gardasil are not routinely being tested for active HPV infection before vaccination – putting them in greater danger of developing the very disease the vaccine was created to prevent.

Gardasil has NOT been proven effective:
According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, cervical cancer kills about 3,900 women in the U.S. annually and nearly 300,000 worldwide – and accounts for about 2% of all cancer cases.

And Gardasil is supposed to protect you from the two HPV strains that cause 70% of cervical cancer.

However, in an article in the Sun-Sentinel, Dr. Karen Smith-McCune, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, said that Gardasil's studies didn’t run long enough to prove Merck’s claim that the vaccine prevents 70% of all cervical cancer – especially since it can take a decade for someone exposed to HPV to develop the cancer.

You see, most cervical cancer patients are diagnosed in their 40s. So if a child is vaccinated when she's 11-years-old, how long will that protection last? And will she need booster shots?

The disturbing thing is … nobody knows for sure. The vaccine has not been on the market long enough to know how well it works – or how long it lasts.

And Gardasil only addresses two HPV strains – out of 30 that can cause cervical cancer. That's why doctors are recommending that girls who have been vaccinated with Gardasil also have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer – just in case.

If regular Pap tests can prevent almost ALL cases of cervical cancer – why do you need Gardasil?
Most people who've been sexually active and exposed to HPV clear the virus from their bodies within two years without any problems – and are left with permanent, lifelong immunity to the HPV strains that caused the infection.

As for the small minority of women who do not clear the virus, regular Pap tests can detect pre-cancerous cervical lesions so that they can be treated before cervical cancer develops and leads to death.

Pap tests have been genuine life-savers. Since they became a standard part of American health care in the 1960s, deaths from cervical cancer have dropped by almost 75%.

On the other hand, Dr. Harper estimates that the Gardasil vaccination will only reduce cervical cancer deaths by 50% in the next 35 years.

So the question you need to ask yourself is this … if Pap tests are more effective than the Gardasil vaccine – and you have to continue getting them anyway even if you're vaccinated - then why should you bother getting vaccinated at all?

Are Gardasil's benefits worth the risks?

Even the medical community has its doubts …
You saw what Dr. Harper had to say earlier in this article. Even though she participated as a researcher in the Gardasil clinical trials, she doesn't believe that the vaccine has been out long enough for us to really understand what all of the potential side effects are going to be.

The lack of knowledge about Gardasil's effectiveness and side effects has many doctors and scientists worried …

Scientist and health researcher Bronwyn Hancock believes that "the Gardasil vaccine has never been shown to be safe or effective in preventing cervical cancer" – due to the many limitations with the testing that's been done.
When comparing the benefits of Gardasil with its potential risks, ABC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson thinks there simply is not enough evidence to recommend to all parents that they have their daughters vaccinated.
Dr. Jaques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, said he would not offer the Gardasil vaccine to patients when good cervical cancer screening techniques and treatments exist. He has also chosen not to have his 11-year-old daughter get the HPV shot because of his concerns.

These medical experts are all for preventing cervical cancer and HPV. That's not the issue here. What bothers them is the fact that – due to limited testing and time on the market – no one really knows how effective Gardasil is at preventing cervical cancer. Or how dangerous it can potentially be.

When you consider that Gardasil …

Is not as effective as Pap tests at preventing cervical cancer – and has not been on the market long enough to be proven effective at all …
Can inflict potentially serious (and deadly) side effects …
And INCREASES your risk of cervical cancer if you already have HPV …
… Then you would be wise to get all the facts you can about Gardasil and carefully weigh the benefits against the risks before you or your daughter is vaccinated.

Author's Bio: 

Deanna Blanchard is a health writer for NewsBlarg.com. For more information, visit http://www.newsblarg.com/node/1276.