Skip to comments.Family fears vaccine led to girl's illness
Posted on 09/13/2009 7:14:31 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
Gabrielle "Gabi" Swank dreamed of traveling to Africa as a Christian missionary.
Now the 16-year-old Wichitan rarely leaves her house, but she's on a mission — warning girls, parents and doctors against Gardasil.
Gabi's doctor and family think the cervical cancer vaccine caused a life-threatening condition that is affecting her immune and nervous systems.
Other experts say there's no link: The vaccine is safe — and a better option than risking cervical cancer.
Whatever the case, Gabi spends her days fighting her disease and urging others to fight Gardasil.
"Preventing cervical cancer is a great idea. This vaccine could be a wonderful thing," Gabi said. "But they need to investigate it more, and they need to fix it.
"I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I'm going through."
Safety, risk report
Gardasil was designed to protect against four strains of the human papilloma virus, which account for about 70 percent of cervical cancers.
The vaccine, approved in 2006, is recommended for girls ages 9 to 26 and is administered in three shots over six months.
A report issued last month raised new questions about Gardasil's safety. The report by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the vaccine had been linked to 32 deaths and more than 700 serious or life-threatening complications, including fainting and blood clots.
At the same time, an analysis by the National Vaccine Information Center, a private vaccine safety group, found that women injected with Gardasil had triple the number of emergency room visits and up to 30 times the number of reported side effects as those given a meningitis vaccine.
"Now we know ... there are more reactions and deaths associated with Gardasil than with another vaccine given in the same age group," said Barbara Fisher, president of the nonprofit group. "It's irresponsible not to take action."
Officials with Merck, which manufactures Gardasil, say the vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risks, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reiterated its position that "Gardasil is a safe and effective vaccine." On Wednesday, an FDA committee recommended that the vaccine be made available to boys and men.
"We vaccinate ourselves, our children and our parents with the same vaccines that we send out to the public every day," said Jennifer Allen, a spokeswoman for Merck.
"We have reviewed all the safety information... and we remain confident in the safety profile of Gardasil."
Since its launch, more than 50 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed around the world, Allen said, with more than 26 million in the U.S.
Gabi, a junior at Wichita South High School, got her first Gardasil shot in November 2007. She lobbied her mother to get the vaccine, spurred in part by Merck's television campaign.
"Everyone at school was like, 'Have you gotten the shot yet? You have to get it,' " Gabi said. "It was like the anti-cancer shot, so we all thought it was a great thing."
Shortly after her first injection, Gabi developed conditions that seemed unexplainable: excessive fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and numbness in her hands and feet.
Her condition worsened after subsequent shots, said Shannon Shrag, Gabi's mother. Gabi's face, hands and feet swelled. She began losing hair. Her body ached most of the time. No one connected her symptoms with the vaccine.
About three months after her final Gardasil shot, Gabi collapsed from severe chest pains and shortness of breath. Several exams and trips to the emergency room left doctors perplexed. Gabi, a varsity cheerleader, gymnast and honor roll student, assumed she had overworked herself.
"That was the beginning of a horrific battle," Schrag said. "Trying to get answers to what was happening to my daughter, trying to find someone who was willing to help her and not tell her she was crazy."
Eventually, Gabi was diagnosed with lupus and cerebral vasculitis, potentially fatal autoimmune and nervous system diseases that have "totally changed my life," she said.
Gabi is too weak to attend school most days. She has seizures that paralyze parts of her body. She takes more than 30 pills a day and recently began lengthy intravenous treatments.
Gabi's neurologist, Dwight Lindholm, blames the Gardasil vaccine for her condition.
"She was perfectly healthy before she started the vaccine. The symptoms began immediately after her first shot and grew progressively worse," Lindholm said.
"I'd say that's good evidence that it's related to the vaccine."
Others say it's likely a tragic coincidence.
Tom Moore, an infectious disease physician and clinical professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, said anecdotal cases like Gabi's are powerful but unscientific.
"Unfortunately, people get lupus all the time. They develop autoimmune conditions. And the disease is often diagnosed in girls in that age group," Moore said.
"To say on the basis of a single case that this was definitely related to the vaccine and, 'By the way, no one should get the vaccine' — that message is irresponsible, and it's at odds with the information that is available."
No vaccine is without risk or side effects, Moore said.
"But in general, these vaccines are as safe as they can possibly be ... and much safer than the risk of getting cervical cancer."
Allen, the Merck spokeswoman, added: "We do not believe that reported autoimmune diseases have been caused by Gardasil.... What we have seen so far does not show any causal relationship."
Support for Gabi
Gabi's isn't the only family that thinks their daughter was harmed by Gardasil. Reports in the Dallas Morning News, U.S. News & World Report, CBS News and other outlets have pointed to several deaths unofficially linked to the vaccine.
More than 100 Facebook pages and petitions urge doctors to stop administering Gardasil, including one titled "Pray for Gabi Swank — Gardasil Victim," which has almost 4,500 members.
An Australian film crew has been chronicling Gabi's life over the past several months, including her appearance in the South High homecoming court last winter that was cut short by a violent seizure and trip to the emergency room.
"I had this awesome dress, and my hair and makeup looked great. And I was just vomiting all over the hospital parking lot," Gabi said. "The camera was right there catching everything. It was like Lindsay Lohan or something."
Friends and classmates have organized fundraisers to offset the family's medical costs. They're selling T-shirts with the phrase, "I don't want to be one less" — a nod to the Gardasil catchphrase, "Be one less," which refers to one less case of cervical cancer.
Gabi's prescriptions cost almost $2,000 a month. Schrag was laid off from her job in pharmaceutical sales last year and has stayed home to care for Gabi. Her husband, Derek, works for Chance Industries. In January, the family lost their south Wichita house to foreclosure and moved to a small duplex.
"Our priority right now is Gabi's health, getting her better," Schrag said.
She struggles with guilt over Gabi's condition, saying she never considered that the vaccine her daughter begged for could have serious side effects.
Because cervical cancer runs in her family, "We thought what we were doing was protecting Gabi," Schrag said. "We didn't want to give cancer the opportunity to invade her body in any way."
Gabi says she "cried all the time" when she first learned the severity of her condition. Her mother and doctors say she may not survive.
But now, "I've accepted it. This has happened to me," she said. "I don't want it to keep happening to other girls."
Gee, are you ever funny. ha ha. how old are you, 8?
HPV is a virus that men can also catch and spread. Genital warts are caused by one of the HPV's.
Ok. Got it.
I skipped it for my 7th grade twin daughters.
My daughter has some issues:neurological and a heart arrhythmia). Her cardiologist strongly supported getting the yearly flu vaccine, but thought we could wait on deciding about gaurdisil.
When my daughters are 16. I’ll see what is happening with side-effects, and then we’ll discuss it again with the doctors.
You do understand that less than 1% of women get cervical cancer? And that women will mistakenly believe that this vaccine will prevent cancer so they may not keep up with paps smears, the very thing that lowered the rate of cervical cancer?
It isn't just the vaccine that is dangerous. The "hype" is too.
I have posted links - but I'll post em again = just for you...and others here have posted other links. I guess you missed them also?
you are spewing nonsense - as well as either showing colossal naivete - or ???
I quoted and gave links to reputable institutions - and asked if you had more training. Do You, more than CDC, more than the people at the very outfit who makes the vaccine - who say they won't take it - and the Dr. who helped develop it who warns against it?
So, what DO you know that they all - and we - don't. Enlighten us.
Your moniker seems to fit tho...maybe Merck makes a chill pill you could benefit from.
Vaccines have side effects. For any vaccine, you have to weigh the benefits of the vaccine against those risks.
For example, I’ve never gotten the Flu vaccine. I could get the flu, but I’m highly unlikely to die from it. And I could die from the flu shot.
I’ve had my children vaccinated for just about everything they make vaccines for. I suppose the Chicken Pox vaccination was the hardest to justify, because most of us grew up with the idea that you should get Chicken Pox as a kid.
Anyway, I’m not pushing my daughter to get this vaccine. Because the “risk” can be almost entirely controlled, while the risk of the vaccine cannot be.
In other words, even if “on average” the risk of the vaccine is greater than the risk of the disease, that’s not true for people who control their lifestyles.
I am definitely not an anti-vaccine zealot.
In fact, I’m one of the ones looking forward to the swine flu shot being available.
However, I see no reason for my 13 year old daughters who are not sexually active to get a shot that prevents a sexually transmitted disease. They aren’t going to get it right now, so why give them the shot.
There are risks to vaccines, so you want to avoid them if possible. You also need to be aware of who is at most risk for having a problem with side effects.
Oh I apologize, I misunderstood. Sorry!
It’s an emotional subject when they try to palm something unsafe on our children. It’s a worry that they are now trying to give it to our boys too.
“HPV is a virus that men can also catch and spread. Genital warts are caused by one of the HPV’s.”
OK. That makes sense. I didn’t connect the HPV-genital warts connection. Ugh.
I read there is an explosion of warts in our brave new sexual freedom world. *ahem*
Well, who would have guessed that actions have consequences?
(I think that’s mising in the sex ed curriculum.)
Yeah, they give instructions on the fun part and never describe the possible aftermath with lifelong consequences.
Exactly! This is how the “feminists” treat young women. When abstinence is the best way to ensure they can grow up to live out their dreams without taking on adult responsibilities too soon or running the risk of disease, the “women’s rights advocates” just keep pushing abortion. It’s a racket and young women are being used. Very sad.
Thanks for understanding. You are correct, moneymaking on kids health is never good.
Well, her symptoms started after the first injection, and worsened after the subsequent injections, and people do have bad reactions or develop diseases from vaccines from time to time, so it’s not impossible or really implausible. I mean, when you vaccinate millions of people, someone’s bound to have a problem with it.
But I think someone really dropped the ball here when the girl kept getting injections after the first bad reaction. Shouldn’t her doctor, or parents, or SOMEONE stopped and said “Hey, these injections are making this girl sick, maybe we shouldn’t give them to her?”
My best friend has POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and she went through a terrible time - onset of symptoms to diagnosis was like six months. She got sick at work (she was an RN), and didn't leave her own hospital for two weeks. She couldn't walk for a while (severe balance issues), had to use a wheelchair, went to heart specialists, neuro specialists, psychiatrists (the other specialists were so stumped that they tried to tell her it was all in her head -like she could psychosomatically induce dangerously low blood pressure, or poor blood flow to the extremities), was tested and tested and retested and was finally diagnosed with POTS months later by a cardiologist who specializes in auto immune disorders.
But, its becoming more and more evident that developing these kind of auto immune diseases is preceded by some kind of trauma, in my case it was surgery on my leg, but it could easily be anything that causes stress to the imune system.
She and her drs think hers was triggered by a bad stomach virus, that she always had the genetic propensity for it, but it didn't kick in until the virus.
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