MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Two sisters in their teens just starting to grow up say they've been robbed of their womanhood when faced with a life-changing diagnosis.
There are few relationships in life as strong as that of sisters. It is a bond formed at birth strengthened through time. Maddie and Olivia Meylor are separated by just 13 months -- sharing clothes, a love of sports, and in 2007, a life-changing doctor's visit.
"We went to the same physician throughout the years," said Joen Meylor, Maddie and Olivia's mom.
At their annual physical, the doctor suggested a new vaccine.
"She said it would prevent cancer. I jumped on board and said 'absolutely. Anything to prevent cancer,'" said Joen.
"I just remember the first shot. It hurt really bad," said Olivia.
The initial pain was nothing compared to what they say happened next.
"As the years went on, Madelyne never got her period," said Joen.
Time passed, and Maddie's development took a turn.
"I still hadn't had my period, which I thought was weird," said Maddie.
After multiple doctor visits, her diagnosis was in.
"We did some testing and sure enough, I had POF," said Maddie.
Maddie was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. She was going through menopause at just 16 years old.
"I do remember just being confused and like, emotional," Maddie said.
Maddie relied on Olivia for support. Only to find out months later the sisters shared the same fate.
"I was also diagnosed in July," said Olivia.
"We were devastated," said Joen.
"It's rare at their age and it's very rare that two sisters would have premature ovarian failure," said Joen.
The sisters went through the same genetic testing, looking for answers. They say all roads led back to that doctor's visit in 2007.
"I realized it was the Gardasil vaccine," said Joen.
The Meylors believe the HPV vaccine is to blame for their rare disorder.
"I'm mad at myself. I should have looked into it. I kick myself every day for that," Joen said.
Dr. Lyn Ranta with of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin doesn't believe the Gardasil vaccine is to blame.
"We know this vaccine is safe. There really is no evidence that shows it's related to getting the HPV vaccine. It has an incredible low risk of serious side effects," said Dr. Ranta.
Ranta says the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any risks. The vaccine is given in three doses intending to stop the virus -- which is a leading cause of multiple cancers.
"It's not a live virus. It's a portion of the virus. It allows your body to recognize the HPV germ in a non-infectious way and you build up antibodies," said Dr. Ranta.
"The risk for serious side effects is very, very small," said Dr. Ranta.
"I'm more angry about what I've had to endure already," said Maddie.
The sisters have filed a federal claim with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. According to records, more than 200 claims have been made against the HPV vaccine. So far, 73 have been compensated. Four years later, there's still no ruling for the Meylors.
"It's just frustrating, just to be waiting," said Olivia.
They want some money for past medical costs and those that loom in the future.
"They've been robbed of their womanhood," said Joen.
The sisters who say family is everything, may never be able to have children in the traditional sense.
"We can carry a child, but we can't create our own," Olivia said.
"They're in menopause and they're 20 and 21. Not fair," said Joen.
It's an obstacle the sisters have been tackling together.
"You just kind of have to be optimistic," Olivia said.
FOX6 News reached out the Merck, the maker of Gardasil. The company says the vaccine's safety was tested in clinical trials -- and continues to be studied in more than a half-million people.
Merck released this statement:
"Nothing is more important to Merck than the safety of our medicines and vaccines. Merck employees, and our families, use our vaccines, too.
We are confident in the safety profile of GARDASIL. The safety and efficacy of GARDASIL was established in clinical trials involving more than 25,000 females and males. Safety has continued to be evaluated in several large post-licensure surveillance studies in more than 500,000 people following administration of more than a million doses of vaccine. And while difficult to determine number of doses administered, more than 169 million doses of GARDASIL have been distributed globally since 2006.
Merck has reviewed the post-licensure reports of POI after administration of GARDASIL and has concluded that the evidence does not support a causal relationship to the vaccine. These cases have been reported to the US FDA and other regulatory agencies. There have been no reports of adverse reactions of POI in subjects who received GARDASIL in clinical trials. A medical history of POI has been reported by a small number of trial participants who received GARDASIL or placebo; the number of medical history reports of POI is similar for GARDASIL and placebo recipients.
Parents should understand the extensive data supporting the safety profile of GARDASIL, and we encourage them to look to CDC and FDA, and to the advice of their own physicians, to make an informed choice about something as important as a vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer."
Merck also released this additional background information to FOX6 News:
While no vaccine or medicine is completely without risk, leading international health organizations throughout the world including the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. CDC, Health Canada, the European Medicines Agency, and the Australia Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), among others, continue to recommend the use of GARDASIL.
The CDC also has a critical perspective on this issue. For more information from the CDC's HPV safety page, CLICK HERE.