Statement for Hearing Regarding HB 411

Health and Government Operations Committee

Maryland General Assembly

February 16, 2010

Speaker: Emily Tarsell, LCPC, ATR-BC

My name is Emily Tarsell and I am here today as a mother, consumer and constituent to testify in support of HB 411 which would mandate public hearing about the HPV vaccine, Gardasil.

It would have been unthinkable 2 years ago that I would be standing before you today urging you to support public hearings about Gardasil. Two years ago, my biggest concern was paying for one more year of tuition for my only child, Christina who was a junior at Bard College in New York. My greatest joy was seeing her blossom at a college she loved. She was an honors student, a member of an award winning tennis team, art editor of the college literary magazine, and a member of Amnesty International, among other things. Chris was a wholesome, moral and healthy girl; a beautiful person, both inside and out and she made me feel proud to be her mother.

Two years ago, she was also between her second and third injections of Gardasil, an HPV vaccine manufactured by Merck. Two years ago, aggressive marketing on TV and elsewhere was compelling middle class families everywhere to have their daughters between the ages of 9 and 26 vaccinated against cervical cancer. Their mantra was “Be one less” and Gardasil was pushed by doctors and professional medical associations as being safe and effective for preventing cervical cancer. Those ads and doctors also said nothing about any adverse side effects. So when Chris had her first gynecological appointment and the doctor suggested she have this “safe” vaccine, there seemed to be no reason to refuse it.

Chris began to develop symptoms of various kinds but because we were never told of any adverse side effects related to the vaccine, we viewed each symptom in isolation. We never got the big picture until it was too late. Because we did not know that the symptoms could be related to Gardasil, Chris went ahead and got that third vaccination in June 2008. She died 18 days after the third injection, cause of death undetermined. There is no test for Gardasil. Mounting evidence, however, suggests that she died from an autoimmune response to the vaccine, and she is not alone.

There are currently well over 17,000 adverse reports to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and this is just the tip of the iceberg since, at best, only 10% of the adverse events are reported. People do not know to report. An audit of reports from Maryland residents over two years indicates that there have been at least 150 reported cases. That number is no doubt larger by now, not to mention that there are many cases that don’t get reported. One of your constituents and another Gardasil victim, Katherine Davison could not be here today but she has sent a letter which is in your packet as well.

Families need the opportunity to be heard in public hearings because we have not been given adequate information to make informed decisions and the truths about Gardasil and cervical cancer are suppressed. I am not just talking about the controversial adverse reports of embolisms, strokes, motor neuron degeneration, numbness, muscle weakness, paralysis, heart disorders, skin disorders, extreme fatigue, debilitating headache, reoccurring dizziness, seizures, paralysis and death. I am talking about the plain, unequivocal truth about cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine, Gardasil.

According to the American Cancer Society, the facts about cervical cancer are

  1. Mortality rates have declined 75% since the Pap test was widely implemented 50 years ago.

  1. There is less than a 1% lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer and less than one quarter of 1% lifetime risk of dying of cervical cancer. That means 3 per 100,000 women die from cervical cancer in the US annually.

  1. There are dozens of HPVs that can cause cervical cancer. In 90% of women,

HPVs clear up on their own within two years. Of the remaining 10%, of HPV

infections, only half will develop into cervical cancer. It is only when the HPV

virus lingers for many years that abnormal cells could turn into cancer.

  1. The length of time required to develop invasive cervical cancer after

identification of precursor lesions averages between 8.1 and 12.6 years and may

require up to 40 years.

  1. Nearly all cervical cancer deaths are preventable by a simple Pap screening and

appropriate follow up.

Had we as consumers, just been given this factual information when we were told about Gardasil, we would certainly have declined the injections. Why would you get an inoculation you don’t need to prevent something you will most likely never get which is very treatable if you do get it? Add to that the unequivocal facts they do not tell you about Gardasil:

  1. The goal of the vaccine is to induce the body to create antibodies for two HPV viruses known to cause cervical cancer and two HPV viruses that cause genital warts. However, it appears the antibodies drop below therapeutic levels after five years and therefore the vaccine would be ineffective without a booster shot.1

  1. Gardasil only addresses two of the dozens of viruses that cause cervical

cancer, therefore it is essential to continue to have annual Pap screens to test for

cervical cancer. 2

  1. Gardasil does not cure cervical cancer. It’s effectiveness in preventing cervical cancer will not be known for decades.3

  1. In 90 % of women, HPV infections clear up on their own within two years. 4

5. The rate of reported serious adverse events following shots of Gardasil is greater

than the incidence rate of cervical cancer. 5

6 The vaccine was fast-tracked by the FDA and was approved in just six months.

Because it was fast-tracked, there are no long term safety studies, no studies about

the interaction with other vaccines given concomitantly, and no studies about the

interaction with birth control pills.6

7 The effect on a fetus or reproduction is unknown. A higher number of breast-

feeding infants whose mothers received Gardasil had acute respiratory illnesses as

compared to infants whose mothers received placebos.7

  1. The vaccine has not been evaluated for potential to cause carcinogenicity or genotoxicity.8

  1. The only benefit to the individual of vaccination is an increased chance that her Pap screen over the next 5 years will be normal.9

The authoritative medical sources for the above information are cited. One of these sources is Dr. Diane Harper. Dr. Harper is an international expert in HPV sciences and she had been the principal investigator for clinical vaccine trials for Merck with regard to Gardasil. I have given you a copy of Dr. Harper’s statements to ABC news and in support of my argument for public hearings about Gardasil, I will quote two of the things she has said. First, “women must be informed of the 3.4/100,000 rate of serious adverse events that have been reported with Gardasil and that the only known benefit to receiving three doses of Gardasil will be a greater chance that their Pap screens over the next 5 years will be normal. [We only have data showing Gardasil is protective for 5 years.] ” 10Secondly, she goes on to add, “Parents and women must know that deaths occur.”11

My daughter died from being talked into getting a vaccine she did not need, a vaccine we would have declined if we had been told the truth about risks and benefits. As of this writing, if consumers are told anything at all, it is only of possible minor side effects like momentary dizziness or fainting or pain at the site of injection. Despite the fact that in June, 2009, serious side effects of “respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders, “pulmonary embolus” and “syncope …and other seizure-like activity” was added to the package inserts for Gardasil, consumers are not told about these risks.

They are also not told about the low risk of cervical cancer in this country and that the efficacy of the vaccine wanes after five years. Across Maryland and indeed, across the world, through aggressive, deceptive and unethical marketing, young girls and young women are unknowingly taking risks about which they have not been informed. I urge you to please pass HB 411 so consumers can begin to receive full disclosure of risks and benefits and truly make informed decisions.

For your information, I have also enclosed an excellent article, Marketing HPV Vaccine, by Drs. Sheila and David Rothman. In their article which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 19, 2009, they describe how disclosure of risk and questions of safety and effectiveness of Gardasil were suppressed, how the population most at risk was ignored and the threat of cervical cancer to the general U.S. female population was deceptively maximized.

On behalf of my daughter Chris and for thousands of girls and their families, thank you for the opportunity to address this important issue and I urge you to please pass HB 411.

Emily Tarsell



1,3,5,9, 10, 11 Harper, Diane. ABC Response to HPV Vaccine adverse events. Researchers Question if HPV Vaccine is Worth the Risk. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Story?id=5620282 (accessed August 21,2008.)

4,7 Ayoub, D.; McDonough, K.; Conrick, T.; Blakey, C. What is Wrong with the HPV Mandate in Illinois? Publication of the Prairie Collaborative for Immunology Safety, Springfield, Illinois, March 14, 2007.

2,6,7,8 Gardasil , Publication 9883611. (2008). Merck and Co., Inc. Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889, USA.

For more information:



Rothman SM, Rothman DJ. Marketing HPV vaccine: implications for adolescent health and medical professionalism. JAMA. 2009; 302(7): 781-786.

Haug, C. The risks and benefits of HPV vaccination. JAMA. 2009; 302 (7): 795-796.