HPV Vaccine Has No Serious Side Effects

Gardasil HPV vaccine increases risk of fainting and skin infection but nothing else

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Since vaccine safety is often on some parents' minds, it's valuable news when an additional safety study is released. One on the HPV vaccine has just been completed.

The study found that the HPV4 vaccine, given to prevent transmission of four strains of the sexually transmitted disease, is linked to fainting and skin infections but no other problems.

"Get your teens the HPV vaccine."

The study, led by Nicola Klein, MD, PhD, the co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in California, involved 44,001 females who received three doses of HPV4 between August 2006 and March 2008.

A total of 189,629 females who received at least one dose were also included in the study.

The HPV4 vaccine, called Gardasil in the US, prevents infection from four strains of human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer.

The types it protects against are 6, 11, 16 and 18. Two of these strains cause about 75 percent of all cervical cancer cases, and two cause 90 percent of all genital warts cases.

The researchers looked at visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations among the participants for three time periods: the day of vaccination, the two weeks after each shot and the two months after each shot.

They compared these time frames to different two-month and two-week periods of the girls that were not close in time to getting the vaccination.

There were 50 different medical conditions that showed a higher risk during at least one of the time periods studied following the vaccination.

However, nearly all of these were found to be linked to a condition the person was already seeing the doctor for or that were otherwise present before the girl got the shot.

The exception was skin infections during the two weeks after the shot and fainting on the day of the shot.

Females who received the HPV4 shot were 1.8 times as likely to develop a skin infection within 14 days of receiving the vaccine than they were during a different time period.

They were also more likely to faint when receiving the shot.

Overall, however, the study did not find any significant adverse effects that might be of concern.

"This study did not detect evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years of age secondary to vaccination with HPV4," the authors concluded.

The HPV4 vaccine was approved in 2006 for women and girls between the ages of 9 and 26. It has also been approved since then for males between 9 and 26 to prevent genital warts.

HPV can also cause vaginal and vulvar cancer and anal cancer, and it has been linked to head and neck cancer. Getting the vaccine reduces a person's likelihood of developing these cancers.

The study was published October 1 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The research was funded by Merck & Co. Dr. Klein receives research funding from Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Novartis and Sanofi Pasteur for other studies.

Three other authors have received study funding from Merck, and one of these also receives research funding from Amgen and Pfizer. Two of the authors are employees of Merck.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
May 6, 2013