Since hitting the market in June 2006, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been lauded for its ability to protect against certain strains of what is the most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide.
The inoculation, marketed as Gardasil and Cervarix, is widely recommended for girls and young women ages 9 to 26 as a way to prevent common types of HPV infections, which can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is effective and “very safe.”
But new research, published this month in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, appears to show a link between the vaccine and primary ovarian failure, or premature menopause. Fast-tracked to the market in many countries, the vaccine has never been studied for its effects on ovary health or fertility.
The study, conducted in Israel and Italy, documents three cases of young women who stopped having their periods after receiving doses of the HPV vaccination. According to the study, the patients had experienced normal sexual development until that point and had no genetic abnormalities.
The study authors wrote that auto-antibodies, specifically anti-ovarion and anti-thyroid antibodies, were detected in bloodwork. As a result, they concluded that the vaccine had triggered an inflammatory response.
“We documented here the evidence of the potential of the HPV vaccine to trigger a life-disabling autoimmune condition,” the study said, noting “uncertainty” about the long-term benefits of the vaccine.
In addition to the amenorrhea, the patients also experienced some common symptoms associated with the HPV vaccine, including nausea, headache and sleep disturbances.
While one study involving three cases likely won’t impact recommendations, some parents may reconsider opting to have their daughters vaccinated. Jamie Martin, Experience Life’s Digital Initiatives Director and the mom of two girls, shares her thoughts here.
- HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.
- There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genitals, mouths and throats of men and women.
- HPV can, but doesn’t always, cause health problems such as genital warts and certain cancers.
- HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer in women.
- Most infected people don’t ever realize they have HPV.
- HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
- About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV.