Statement for Hearing regarding District of Columbia

Funding for Mandatory HPV Vaccinations

Speaker: Emily Tarsell

April 21, 2010

My name is Emily Tarsell and I am here today as a mother, consumer and citizen to oppose the funding of mandatory injections of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. In fact, I would argue that all vaccinations with Gardasil should be suspended pending further investigation and research regarding safety, adequate disclosure of risks and vast improvements in the reporting system. It has been just about a week since the Minister of Health in India was petitioned by 70 medical doctors, women’s groups and public health organizations to halt vaccinations with Gardasil in response to concerns about ethical violations and safety. Those same concerns exist here.

It would have been unthinkable 2 years ago that I would be speaking before you today to raise awareness 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, a good cook, a caring friend and a beautiful person, both inside and out. 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.

Another young lady, Megan, died suddenly while taking a shower, as did 13 year old Sparkyl. Jessica collapsed and died in her bathroom. Amber collapsed with seizures in the parking lot on her way to work; she died in the hospital 7 days later. Both Santana and Jasmine, like Chris, were found dead in their beds. What did these wonderful, healthy girls have in common? They all died shortly after receiving inoculations of Gardasil and cause of death was undetermined. These are but a few of the more than 60 deaths now reported following Gardasil injections. Besides the deaths, there are more than 17,000 cases of illness, at least 7% of which are serious including strokes and embolisms, motor neuron degeneration, numbness, muscle weakness, heart disorders, skin disorders, extreme fatigue, debilitating headaches, seizures and paralysis. And this is just the tip of the iceberg since, at best, only 10% of the adverse events are reported. According to the statistics, your chances of having a serious adverse event following injections of Gardasil are greater than your chances of getting cervical cancer. In addition, cervical cancer can be treated. There is no cure for the reactions girls and women are having to Gardasil. After injections with Gardasil, they could not stop a two year period of motor neuron degeneration and paralysis in young Jennie, and she too passed away. They cannot stop Gabrielle’s post-injection deterioration either, and the outlook is grim.

Are the risks worth the benefits of injection with Gardasil? Dr. Charlotte Huag wrote an editorial in the August 19, 2009 issue of JAMA addressing this very question. “How should a parent, physician, politician or anyone else decide whether it is a good thing to give young girls a vaccine that partly prevents infection… an infection that in a few cases will cause cervical cancer 20 or 40 years from now?” she asks. Dr. Huag goes on to explain, “Even if persistently infected with HPV, a woman most likely will not develop cervical cancer if she is regularly screened. So rationally she should be willing to accept only a small risk of harmful effects from the vaccine.”

Dr. Diane Harper, former lead researcher on Gardasil for Merck, has pointed out in interviews with ABC news, “The rate of reported serious adverse events following shots of Gardasil is greater than the incidence of cervical cancer.” Weigh this risk against the fact that she reported, “The only benefit to the individual of vaccination is an increased chance that one’s Pap screen over the next 5 years will be normal.” Dr. Harper also added, “Parents and women must know that deaths occur.”

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. So Mayor Barry, Chairman Catania, councilmen and policy makers, it is your responsibility as public servants to do nothing less than everything in your power to prevent another girl (or boy) from literally being one less. It is your responsibility to promote the truth about Gardasil and cervical cancer and to give the consumer the freedom to choose.