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Cervical cancer shots 'painful'

8th January 2008

Initial reports indicate a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer, which is typically administered to teenage girls is more painful than other immunisation jabs.

Vaccination1

Gardasil, which is given to young girls before they become sexually active to protect against two types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which cause most cervical cancers, is reported to cause pain and stinging.

The pain is not just associated with the needle, but also with the entry into the body of the vaccine, and causes tenderness for some time after being administered.

Manufacturers Merck & Co have acknowledged that some stinging occurs, and attribute it to the presence of virus-like particles in the vaccine.

Studies had already noted the more-than-average pain associated with Gardasil before it was introduced.

Media reports quote some teenagers as saying it is uncomfortable to drive with or sleep on the injected arm for the next day or so after receiving the jab.

Across the United States from 2002 to 2004, around 50 teenagers were reported to have fainted after a vaccination shot. That number shot up to 230 between 2005 and July 2007. Around 180 of these reports followed a shot of Gardasil.

But experts said it wasn't yet clear whether or not the pain of injection had caused the fainting.

Gardasil is the first vaccine approved specifically to target HPV, some strains of which cause cervical and vaginal cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for girls ages 9 to 26.

So far, only 10-20% of that age group has had at least one dose of the vaccination, which costs US$120 a shot.

The vaccine has been controversial, because it assumes sexual activity in young teens. Most states have not made it compulsory for prepubescent girls.

GlaxoSmithKline also has a vaccine for HPV under review at the FDA. So far, no reports of pain have surfaced during clinical trials. GSK's Cervarix could be available from 2008.


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