Gardasil: What’s IN it?

Continuing the discussion about the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine Gardasil...I’d like to step back and talk about exactly what is IN this vaccine. Much of the fear about immunizations surrounds concerns about the makeup of the vaccine, and what peripheral damage could potentially be caused from the content.

First of all, can you “catch” HPV from the vaccine? NO. Absolutely NOT. There are vaccines (like chicken pox or measles) that contain essentially watered-down versions of live virus, and as such, can in the course of an appropriate response cause a mild version of the disease as the body reacts to the vaccine, causing long-term immunity. However, the HPV vaccine does not work this way. There is only a tiny portion of the virus  (a surface protein called L1), that scientists extract, multiply and wad up into a ball. Our immune systems “see” this balled-up material as the whole HPV, and make very effective antibodies to fight it off.

What else is in the vaccine as a by-product? Is there thimerosol? NO. Is there Mercury? NO. Is there a tiny bit of aluminum? Yes. 225 micrograms of alum, to be exact, which is the same tiny amount that is allowed in infant formula (and yes, there is even aluminum in breast milk, though less than formula.) Why is there any aluminum in there at all? Well, aluminum is the most common metal found in nature- present in our water and much of our food. In vaccines, aluminum is an “adjuvant”- something added to improve the immune response.

BOTTOM LINE: The HPV vaccine Gardasil creates very effective immunity against the strains of HPV that cause 90% of genital warts and 70% of cervical cancers, and does NOT contain other byproducts that have raised concern in other immunizations.

PS Full disclosure: I am not on Merck’s payroll in any fashion. I am a family physician with a special interest in STDs & I believe this vaccine will help prevent much disease & heartache.

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