The five things you need to know about the HPV debate
Gardasil is one of the FDA-approved vaccines to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
September 14th, 2011
02:18 PM ET

The five things you need to know about the HPV debate

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that parents have their middle-school-aged daughters vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease closely linked to cervical cancer.

The human papillomavirus is the most common STD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the second leading cause of female cancer mortality worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There are currently two FDA-approved vaccines - Gardasil and Cervarix - to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.  While each vaccine uses different substances to rev up the immune system, both are given as shots and must be received in three doses over a six-month period, according to the manufacturers.

That's nothing new.

1. So, why is there such a debate swirling around the issue? Well, politics.

You've probably seen headlines about the HPV vaccine for years now, so what's new? A bigger spotlight, essentially, and the vaccine has come up amid jockeying for the GOP presidential nomination.

The debate over the use of the HPV vaccine - and specifically how it is given and who can mandate it - became a hot topic after some tense exchanges during Monday’s CNN/Tea Party GOP debate.

GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann challenged one of her rivals for the Republican nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on his 2007 executive order that would have required Texas schoolgirls to receive vaccinations against HPV. Bachmann suggested the governor acted for political reasons, noting that the maker of Gardasil - the only Food and Drug Administration-approved HPV vaccine at the time – contributed to his campaigns, and that his former chief of staff lobbies for the company. She also said the drugmaker, Merck & Co., stood to make millions of dollars because of the order.

Truth Squad: Was Bachmann's claim about Perry's mandate for political reasons true?

Bachmann’s challenge came as candidates discussed the pros and cons of executive orders, and when and how the president should use one.

Perry said during the debate that if he could do it over again, he wouldn’t use an executive order, but would work with the legislature.

2. OK, wait. What actually happened in Texas?

Since 2006, 19 state legislatures have attempted to pass legislation that would mandate HPV shots for school, after the CDC recommended that parents be advised that the shot was a good idea and a way of preventing cervical cancer.

Perry took that one step further. In February 2007, he signed an executive order directing the state Health and Human Services commissioner to mandate HPV vaccinations for all girls before admission to the sixth grade. Perry at the time released a statement saying that the vaccine "provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer.”

Texas' rules were to take effect in September 2008. However, the Texas Legislature passed a bill overturning Perry's order in April 2007. Perry declined to veto the bill, which went into effect in May 2007, killing his order.

3. Politics aside, what are the health concerns?

We've been vaccinating kids - by mandate - for school for years.  And for all of those vaccines, parents have the ability to opt out. Again, that's nothing new.

But public perception is changing.

The debate over vaccinations picked up steam after concerns and arguments over whether childhood vaccinations were linked to autism or other diseases became another hot topic. Some were quick to warn of harmful side effects. And then, some medical journals retracted studies linking the two.

Many advocates against vaccinations still said that not enough was known and stood by the idea that there was a connection.

During Monday’s debate, much of the brouhaha over the HPV vaccine centered more on how Perry approached the issue than the vaccine itself. After the debate, Bachmann did touch on whether the vaccine was safe: She said parents told her that the vaccine had made their children sick.

But when it comes to the HPV vaccine, the CDC breaks it down pretty easy: It is safe and can go a long way in preventing a deadly cancer. The CDC says studies of the vaccine "showed no serious side effects," but "common, mild side effects included pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea." The CDC has said that if you get sick after the shot, it's a coincidence, not cause and effect, CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reports.

Then there's the issue about the age of vaccination.

Middle school children are the targets of the vaccine, and there are some concerns about whether they should be vaccinated at an age when many may not be sexually active. And in some conservative areas, there is concern that the vaccine might encourage children to have sex at an earlier age.

4. So what do the vaccines do?

The FDA has licensed two HPV vaccines recommended by the CDC: Cervarix and Gardasil.

So what are the similarities? According to the CDC:

■ Both vaccines are very effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers. So both vaccines prevent cervical cancer in women.

■ Both are very safe.

■ Both are made with very small parts of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cannot cause infection

■ Both are given as shots and require three doses.

And what are the differences? According to the CDC:

■ Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) protects against HPV types 6 and 11 - the types that cause most genital warts in females and males.

■ Only Gardasil has been tested and licensed for use in males.

■ Only Gardasil has been tested and shown to protect against cancers of the vulva, vagina and anus.

■ The vaccines have different adjuvants, substances that are added to increase the body's immune response.

(You can read more about HPV and the vaccines from the CDC here.)

5. Where do things currently stand across the country with regard to the vaccine?

Of the 19 states that tried to pass legislation mandating vaccination for children to attend school, only two passed the legislation. (You can see a full list of the attempted bills in each state here.)

Only Virginia and Washington, D.C., have passed measures to require the mandate. In Virginia, the legislature tried to reverse the mandate. The state's House passed the reversal, but the bill was killed in a Senate committee, so the mandate still stands.

Even there, where this is a mandate, it appears that more families are choosing to opt out of the program than to take part in it.

"Just 17.3 percent of eligible girls had received the first of three vaccinations, as envisioned by the law, at the start of this school year," according to Rosalind S. Helderman, writing for The Washington Post in February. "Only 23 percent of this year's eligible sixth-graders in the District have received the vaccine."

soundoff (736 Responses)
  1. Carlybee

    In seeking answers to why adolescent girls are suffering devastating health damage after being injected with HPV vaccines, SANE Vax, Inc decided to have vials of Gardasil tested in a laboratory. There, they found over a dozen Gardasil vaccine vials to be contaminated with rDNA of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The vials were purchased in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Poland and France, indicating Gardasil contamination is a global phenomenon.

    This means that adolescents who are injected with these vials are being contaminated with a biohazard - the rDNA of HPV. In conducting the tests, Dr. Sin Hang Lee found rDNA from both HPV-11 and HPV-18, which were described as "firmly attached to the aluminum adjuvant."

    That aluminum is also found in vaccines should be frightening all by itself, given that aluminum should never be injected into the human body (it's toxic when ingested, and it specifically damages the nervous system). With the added discovery that the aluminum adjuvant also carries rDNA fragments of two different strains of Human Papillomavirus, this now reaches the level of a dangerous biohazard - something more like a biological weapon rather than anything resembling medicine.

    As SANE Vax explains in its announcement, these tests were conducted after an adolescent girl experienced "acute onset Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis within 24 hours" of being injected with an HPV vaccine. (

    Learn more:

    September 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Capt Nemo

      This data is from a famously anti-vaccine pseudo-science group which won't release details of this research because it's "proprietary". This is not good information against the vaccine; see the link below for why.

      September 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ybsnad

    and it causes retardation, so says the founder of the house tea party caucus and soon to be former gop presidential candidate. you sure know how to pick em gop.

    September 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. A Mom

    I think legislatures should limit the vaccines required for public school attendance to diseases likely to be contracted in the school environment.

    September 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • aashen

      And I think you have been listening to too much Jenny McCarthy. The vaccine prevents cancer in the long term, end of story. Give your kids the damn shot, or answer for it at the pearly gates when St. Peter asks why you let your daughter die to a preventable illness.

      September 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Another Mom

      I completely agree with you, A Mom. There is no epidemic risk so the government has no business telling people they need to have it to attend school. The idea that it would be required is outrageous. OK – it reduces her chance of cervical cancer. I get that. My daughter will probably get it, but that is MY choice, not the government's choice. There are only 4,000 deaths from cervical cancer every year. That is NOT a lot really and there is no guarantee that having this vaccine will prevent you from getting cervical cancer anyway – it isn't an absolute.

      September 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. violinner

    Why does CNN constantly bring up the autism scam? It is a lie, and repeating it helps propogate the potentially life threatening effects of that lie.

    September 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      It's very irresponsible for CNN to be suggesting this link which has been consistently disproven

      September 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dl

    These cancer vaccines protect against the virus strains that cause 70% of cervical cancers. Pap smears also help to protect women from cervical cancer because they detect the virus effects and you can get surgery before the cancer develops if you catch it early. So, if you believe you or your kids CANT POSSIBLY BE AT RISK, EVER, then I guess you choose to avoid basic health care like pap smears, too? And you want your sons to have warts? Fine with me. Freedom is a good thing. Everyone gets to choose disease if they want to. For me, I cannot imagine not protecting my daughter with this vaccine.

    September 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      This is NOT a cancer vaccine. It is an HPV vaccine. Please get your facts straight.

      September 16, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • sara

      yes, it is a cancer vaccine. cervical cancer.

      September 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      No, it's not – HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. You can have HPV without ever developing cervical cancer, and you can get cervical cancer without ever contracting HPV.

      September 19, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      Indirectly, it IS a cancer vaccine. Yes you cannot have a direct cancer vaccine, but by vaccinating against HPV you are helping prevent cervical and potentially other cancers. Pointing at a few inevitable cases while disregarding the benefit of so many thousands is ignorant at best.

      September 19, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ronda

    I agree with A Mom......I see these mandates as a way to force payments for an expensive drug. With Polo it is highly contagious, so is measles and mumps etc. Unless you can catch HPV from normal school activities that puts children at risk then no way should there be a mandate. I see people running for the nearest clinic with no thought to what is going to happen in 20-25 years when we have a whole bunch of girls that are protected from HPV but are having trouble concieving that they link back to giving this drug before puberty! These parents will be up in arms but it will be too late instead of asking why they are pushing this drug so fast and furious thinking this is a holy grail!

    September 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      no vaccine causes trouble with conception

      September 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teresa

      @ andrew......this is a relatively new vaccine. There has not been enough data to prove or disprove your hypothesis. Until then as a mother, with a daughter I choose to educate my daughter about the hazards of multiple partners. It's quite easy to do and cost a lot less than a vaccine with an unproven record.

      September 19, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. mjd

    I find it interesting that girls can be vaccinated against something they get from the male population and yet boys are not being vaccinated. I understand that now they are using Gardasil on boys but they should have started there and not on the girls. If there is going to be a requirement to vaccinate against HPV start at the origins.

    September 16, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      They're starting the "Get your sons vaccinated" campaign, don't worry.

      September 16, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Suzanne


      September 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. maybe12345

    "Both vaccines are very effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers. So both vaccines prevent cervical cancer in women."
    FALSE! They prevent infection of HPV16 and HPV18. These are not the only ways to get cervical cancers. So they prevent an STD which can possibly cause cancer later.

    September 16, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kristi

    Why don't you talk about the fact that cervical cancer rates have declined every year since the late 70's (before gardisil), it is not even one of the top 10 killers of women (less than 3000 women will die of cervical cancer this year), most of the women who do get cervical cancer are over the age of 45, gardasil did not test this vaccine on 12 year old girls, and they do not know whether or not these young girls will need to have another round of shots in order to stay protected. There have been side effects from gardasil-some of them not so minor. And as you state the vaccines only protect against 2 or 3 strains of HPV-there are many many more strains that can be contracted. Gardasil does not prevent cancer, it prevents 4 strains of HPV and this is not a guarantee that your daughter will not get cervical cancer! Quit spewing the company line about these drugs!

    September 16, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Exactly! This is not a cancer vaccine, it is an HPV vaccine. You can get cervical cancer without having HPV, and you can have HPV and never get cervical cancer. The vast majority of HPV cases clear up on their own without any issues. Regular Pap smears and pelvic exams, with appropriate treatment when necessary, are just as effective at preventing cervical cancer as Gardasil.

      September 16, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rachel

    Why don't we require the males to be vaccinated with Gardasil? Males are the carriers of HPV, not females. Males can carry HPV and never show any symptoms, all the while infecting their partner.

    September 16, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Roger Pelizzari

    Surprise. Bachmann was right this once.

    Gardasil vaccines appear to be contaminated with a genetically engineered Human Papillomavirus recombinant DN.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bonnie

    My best friend got the vaccine as a teenager. Guess what? She still got cervical cancer (at 22 years old) caused by HPV. I'm sure it helps in prevention, but know it is not fool-proof.

    September 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rog-Geo

    I am a father with two daughters and two sons. It would be a wonderful world if they all remained chaste before marriage and monogamous within marriage, and had spouses who did likewise. Alas, this is unlikely, at least the first part. The decision my daughters and I made was to get them vacinated in their mid-teens. The opportunity to lower the liklihood of them getting HPV and possibly cervical cancer seemed worth it to us.

    My grandmother (their great-grandmother) died of cervical cancer in her mid-40s and I am glad to lower my daughter's risk. If the vaccine had been approved for boys at the time, I would have had them vaccinated as well.

    September 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Roger Pelizzari

    Press Release: Physicians And Scientists For Global Responsibility
    14 September 2011
    Recall and Review of Gardasil Vaccine

    The Ministry of Health must immediately recall and review the potentially life threatening Gardasil vaccine after 100% of 13 samples from several countries including New Zealand tested positive for HPV DNA and may remain in circulation.(1)
    The Merck Sharpe and Dohme (NZ) vaccine Gardasil purportedly to prevent cervical cancer has been linked to many severe reactions.
    The FDA vaccine events reporting site (VEARS) has 12,424 reports of adverse events following Gardasil vaccination. Of these, 772 were reports of serious events (6.2% of the reports) and the remaining 11,652 (93.8%) were classified as non-serious. In New Zealand at least one death has been attributed to the vaccine.
    The discovery that some batches contain HPV DNA contradict the Medsafe data sheets statement that the vaccine does not contain viral DNA "virus-like particles are adsorbed onto an aluminium-containing adjuvant (amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulfate, or AAHS) ... Because the virus-like particles contain no viral DNA, they cannot infect cells or reproduce."
    Dr Sin Hang Lee, a pathologist at the Milford Hospital pathology laboratory well-known for using cutting-edge DNA sequencing for molecular diagnoses, has said that "once a segment of recombinant DNA is inserted into a human cell, the consequences are hard to predict. It may be in the cell temporarily or stay there forever, with or without causing a mutation. Now the host cell contains human DNA as well as genetically engineered viral DNA."
    SANE Vax Inc who detected this contamination event, have expressed concern over the prolonged circulation of the foreign recombinant (genetically engineered) DNA as it could use the body's cellular mechanisms as a host to keep replicating with unknown results. The vaccine was genetically engineered to produce "virus like" particles to provoke immunity.

    September 17, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Myke

    Forced vacinations is a big scam perpetuated by big pharma. Its all a big bunch of BS. And big money for big pharma who could not give a crap about your well being.

    September 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
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