FEDS' WARNING SHOT
GARDASIL CANCER VACCINE PROBED FOR LINK TO 18 DEATHS
By SUSAN EDELMAN and BRUCE GOLDING
GARDASIL - a new cervical-cancer vaccine heavily marketed to young girls in ubiquitous ads on TV and in movie theaters - is under investigation for possible links to paralysis, seizures, and 18 deaths.
Federal health officials have logged 8,000 "adverse events" in girls and women injected with the Merck & Co. vaccine introduced two years ago, more than 500 of them from New York.
And lawyers last month filed the first two claims on behalf of girls with ailments blamed on Gardasil under a federal program to compensate victims of vaccine-caused illness, The Post has learned.
Both girls got the injections at their middle schools.
One is Jesalee Parsons, now 15, of Oklahoma, who began vomiting the day she got a Gardasil shot and developed pancreatitis, her claim says.
"It makes me mad because they're saying how great it is, but they never mention how many people have been hurt by it," Jesalee told The Post.
Healthy all her life, her family says, Jesalee has been hospitalized on and off for more than a year. She restricts her diet, takes pain pills and misses many school days.
"I'm pretty sick all the time," she said.
The other claim was filed for Jessica Vega of Nevada, who came down with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an immune-system disorder, at age 14 - a week after her second Gardasil shot.
Thirty others have reported the syndrome after getting the vaccine.
JESSICA'S mom, Rhonda Vega, says the girl's lower legs and arms were paralyzed, but she's learned to walk again. "Protecting girls against cervical cancer is a fabulous thing, but if this is what's going to happen, they need to research it more," she said.
In Florida, the mother of 13-year-old Brittany LeClaire said her daughter suffered headaches and lethargy after a Gardasil shot last Aug. 13. On Sept. 2, Brittany's left leg became paralyzed. After months on a walker, she limps.
Her pediatrician "highly recommended" the vaccination, mom Christina Bell said. "He told me it was a cancer preventative. I thought it was the right thing to do. You see it advertised on TV every 15 minutes."
Brittany's case is one of six being prepared for filing by Boston vaccine lawyer Kevin Conway. He said other cases include "paralysis, seizures and brain damage."
Gardasil was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2006 for females ages 9 to 26. Sold worldwide, it's been given to more than 8 million US girls and women, Merck says.
The vaccine is aimed at warding off strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can lead to cancer. The vaccinations cost a total $360.
Securities and Exchange Commission documents show Merck made $1.5 billion in Gardasil sales last year. (my emphasis)
ONE doctor who helped conduct clinical trials on Gardasil told The Post the vaccine has been aggressively marketed to girls too young to need it.
"There's a huge push for giving this to girls 11 and 12 years of age," said Dr. Diane Harper of Dartmouth Medical School. "There's no hurry. You can give it to someone who is 20, 25 or 30 and still have the same level of protection."
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, run by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has collected thousands of reports of health problems after Gardasil shots.
The fatalities include:
* A 17-year-old New York girl who collapsed and died on Feb. 22 this year, two days after the last of three Gardasil injections. An autopsy could not pinpoint the cause, but doctors suspect a heart-rhythm disorder.
* An 11-year-old who suffered a heart attack in May 2007, three days after a Gardasil shot. The nurse who reported it said a doctor blamed it on "an anaphylactic [severe allergic] reaction to Gardasil." The feds could not confirm the case.
* A 12-year-old girl with no prior medical problems who died in her sleep on Oct. 6, 2007, three weeks after a Gardasil shot.
DR. John Iskander, the CDC's acting director for immunization safety, said a review of 10 confirmed deaths found no common thread. Officials "concluded to the degree of certainty possible" that Gardasil wasn't to blame.
"It's tragic that young, apparently healthy people, do die," Iskander said.
But he added that doctors hold special meetings weekly to review new cases, and compare them to prior ones.
Fainting is the main symptom linked to Gardasil, he said.
Merck spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty said the company "actively monitors" reports of side effects.
"An event report does not mean that a causal relationship between an event and vaccination has been established - just that the event occurred after vaccination," she said.
A Post analysis of adverse- event reports filed through April 30 found that about 20 percent followed injections of Gardasil, plus up to seven other vaccines at the same time - including shots to prevent flu, chicken pox, hepatitis and tetanus. Almost 6,300 cases involved Gardasil alone.
Under a federal law passed in the late 1980s, victims of vaccines may file a claim under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, but cannot sue the pharmaceutical.
Last year, the government added HPV to a list of vaccines, including polio, hepatitis and measles, granted immunity from suit.
If victims prove a vaccine likely caused injuries, the program pays a maximum $250,000 for death. The average payment for injury has been $1 million.
MY GIRL DIED AS 'GUINEA PIG' FOR GARDASIL
By SUSAN EDELMAN
TRAGIC: Jessica Ericzon collapsed dead days after receiving a shot of the cervical-cancer vaccine Gardasil.
Posted: 4:26 am
July 20, 2008
She loved SpaghettiO's, pepperoni, lilies, listening to her iPod and making her pals laugh.
In her senior yearbook, she wrote, "The best things in life aren't things, they're friends."
Now that's the quote chiseled into her gravestone.
Jessica Ericzon, 17, was "an all-American teenager," as described by one of her upstate LaFargeville teachers.
Last February, she was working on her softball pitches, getting ready for a class trip to Universal Studios in Florida and hitting the slopes to snowboard with her older brother.
Then one day, the blond, blue-eyed honors student collapsed dead in her bathroom.
It started with a pain in the back of her head.
On the advice of her family doctor, Jessie had taken a series of three Gardasil shots.
The vaccine, marketed for females ages 9 to 26, is the first found to ward off strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.
Jessie got the first injection in July 2007.
After her second shot in September, she complained of a pain in the back of her head, fatigue and soreness in some joints, said her mom, Lisa.
On Feb. 20, while on winter break from school, she got her third and final dose of the vaccine.
The next night, "she told me the spot on the back of her head was bothering her again," her mom said.
The next morning, Feb. 22, Lisa, a hospital technician, left for work just after 5 a.m., leaving Jessie asleep.
Jessie never showed up for the class she was taking at Jefferson Community College.
When her mom got home at 3:20 p.m., she found Jessie sprawled on her back on the bathroom floor, with blood spots on her head where it had hit a flowerpot.
Jefferson County Medical Examiner Samuel Livingstone is stumped.
"She was essentially dead by the time she hit the floor. Whatever it was, it was instantaneous," Livingstone said. His autopsy found no cause.
He speculates she suffered a cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, extremely rare in young people.
Jessie had been on birth-control pills for a year to treat acne, records show.
Livingstone reported Jessie's death to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System.
Run by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has collected 8,000 reports of problems after Gardasil shots, including paralysis, seizures and miscarriages.
Seventeen other deaths following the vaccine have been reported since Merck & Co. introduced it in 2006.
Officials have confirmed 11 of the reported deaths so far, said CDC spokesman Curtis Allen.
They have found "no pattern or connection" to Gardasil in eight deaths and are still reviewing three, he said.
Lisa Ericzon now feels her daughter was "a guinea pig" for Gardasil, and is urging parents to research the vaccine before letting their daughters get it.
"I want other mothers to know," said Lisa, the first parent of a girl who died after Gardasil to speak publicly.
"I don't want them to go through what I went through."
Jessie planned to major in psychology at SUNY Plattsburgh and pursue her greatest ambition - to become a New York state trooper.
Just six days before she died, she got to ride along with a trooper canine unit. She was ecstatic.
Her family started the Jessica Ericzon Memorial Fund to award scholarships to her classmates.
First of all I would like to point out that the only way to contract HPV is by having sex with someone who has had sex with someone other than you. So if you're not having sex YOU ARE NOT AT RISK FOR HPV!!! If there is no chance of your contracting HPV then THERE IS NO POINT GETTING THE VACCINE ANYWAY!!! If you are at risk then the best way to prevent HPV is to STOP BEING AT RISK!!! Again, if you are not having sex, you are not at risk, so there's no reason to get the vaccine in the first place. Girls - next time you go to the doctor, I am begging you, print out the two articles above, and when the doctor suggests you get the HPV vaccine, hand him or her the articles, say "This is why I refuse to get the vaccine" and walk out of the office.