How Safe is the HPV vaccine?

I’ve been reading a lot about the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine and the risk of serious side effects and even death. I thought I would seek out the numbers and put them in context. Especially given headlines claiming the HPV jab is “as deadly as the cancer” it seeks to prevent.

How Safe Is The HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine?

A note about the UK. These are the figures for Gardasil, the vaccine used in the US. In the UK, the dominant vaccine is Cervarix. For which I have no figures. Ben Goldacre explores some important points around Cervarix. Worth reading.

(You can explore my data here. I’ve put the data on three separate sheets inside the spreadsheet. Here are the original source documents from the US Centre Of Disease Control).

If you have any figures on Cervarix or any other facts and sources that can add to this diagram, please get in touch. Thanks!

If you’re looking for information on HPV, Cervical Cancer and immunisation, try these links
: The NHS page on the cervical cancer jab
: General info on immunisation, including HPV


UPDATE 1: I’ve been asked to include the other side of the Gardasil story which is represented by The National Vaccine Information Centre ( – which is a nonprofit, non-medical organization founded by parents of vaccine-injured children.

In contrast to the Centre For Disease Control, the NVIC are strongly anti Gardasil. As evidence, they cite the case reports from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database. It tracks adverse side-effects of vaccinations across the US. Reporting is voluntary. Studies say it only catches around 10% of side-effects (source: LA Times). Though it’s fair to expect a higher capture rate for deaths.

On that database, the NVIC count 29 Gardasil-associated deaths. I’ve been through the database and pulled out the case reports on those deaths so you can read them for yourself. Download them here.

For extra info, the NY Times has an excellent article about HPV Vaccines here, exploring several perspectives.

UPDATE 2: A few people questioned how I calculated the theoretical odds for dying from Gardasil, as the numbers don’t seem to match. Yup, fair enough. I wasn’t really clear about that. Essentially, the numbers at the top of the image (20,400,000 doses etc) are not used to calculate the odds. Instead, the odds are calculated using the National Safety Council’s method. That is:

population of United States / number of deaths per year

That gives the one year risk rate. Then if you divide that number again by the average US lifespan (77.8 years) you get the lifetime risk. See the risk chart here.

UPDATE 3 I didn’t factor for the fact that women receive up to 3 jabs of Gardasil. So the 20 million doses figures does not necessarily equate to number of people receiving the vaccine. Changing the maths a bit (to assume an average of 2 jabs per person) has altered the numbers slightly on the graph. (Percentage of side effects 0.05% rises to 0.1%. Percentage of serious side effects 0.003% to 0.007%. And so on). Thanks to A for that correction.