April 30, 2009 (Seattle) — Girls and women who receive the Gardasil vaccine to prevent cervical cancer may be at increased risk of a rare but serious disorder of the nervous system in the first few weeks after getting their shots, researchers report.
Overall, the vaccine does not raise the odds of developing Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a disorder of the peripheral nervous system, says Nizar Souayah, MD, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
“But there is clear evidence from our database of an increased incidence of Guillain-Barre syndrome in the first six weeks, especially the first two weeks, after vaccination,” he tells WebMD.
Still, the risk is extremely low: 26 in 10 million in the first two weeks and 30 in 10 million in the first six weeks after vaccination. That compares to 5 in 10 million odds in the general population, Souayah says.
In response to the study, a spokesperson for Merck, which makes Gardasil, notes that the CDC says that “the data do not currently suggest an association between Gardasil and GBS.”
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.
If a dangerous effect only shows up in 30 people of every 10 million, it is hard to imagine what kind of testing could reveal this beforehand.