What is the story with Merck’s Gardasil Vaccine?

On February 5 2015, the Toronto Star, one of Canada’s largest daily newspapers, published an investigative story on the drug Gardasil, produced by Merck.

Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against a series of HPV cancers. The Toronto Star investigation heard from parents and teenagers who believed that their illnesses were due to taking the drug.

Shortly after the story was produced the Toronto Star issue a retraction, starting:

The investigation , published on the Star’s front page with a large banner headline — “A wonder drug’s dark side” — told you that “Hundreds of thousands of teen girls have safely taken Gardasil … But a Star investigation has found that since 2008 at least 60 Canadians experienced debilitating illness after inoculation. Patients and parents say the incidents point to the full disclosure of risks.”

That alarmist information is not the full story.

What you need to know and understand fully is the fact that there is no scientific medical evidence of any “dark side” of this vaccine. The Gardasil vaccine has been tested by highly credible national and global public health agencies and the scientific evidence overwhelmingly concludes that it is safe and effective.

The Toronto Star’s retraction of their original story does not end the community’s interest in the potential impacts of the drug.

Kim Robinson’s story of their daughter Kate’s health since taking the drug has been shared on Facebook 278,000 times. The Robinson’s state:

We deeply regret consenting to the Gardasil vaccine. We had no idea of the severe side effects some experience post vaccine. Every day, we wish we had been more informed. Parents beware of blindly following your doctor’s recommended vaccine schedule. Do not rely or expect your doctor to know everything. You must do your own research and ask plenty of questions. Our family found out the hard way that it is possible for a vaccine to have lasting and devastating effects.

In the world we live in it is not possible to stop a story from spreading. It may be that the large media will stay away from reporting controversial stories, but this will only drive the stories to smaller publications and Facebook.

A key test of a company is how it handles criticism under fire. The challenge for companies to understand is that the rise of social media has unlocked a new world. Being transparent and open is the only way to build confidence.

In this new world, the future of vaccines like Gardasil rely on addressing the stories of people like Katie Robinson, not trying to hide them from view.


Katie Robinson’s story:

The Star’s edited story:

The media reaction:


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