I get an email about Gardasil

hpv posterI get lots of email about my articles that are published here. Sometimes, it’s about grammar or spelling (and the grammar KGB can be uncivil at times). Sometimes, it’s compliments or questions about what I’ve written. Rarely, they’re rude and usually include quite immature comments about the location of my head. However, I recently received an email that is more or less polite, but is filled with so many errors and logical fallacies, that I thought it should be critiqued publicly.

Here are my point-by-point comments about the email:

I stumbled across your blog and could not believe what I was reading about the safety of Gardasil.  As a mother of a Gardasil injured daughter, your profuse endorsement made me skeptical.  I want to begin by saying I am not anti-vaccine;  I am anti-Gardasil. 

First of all, there is no evidence of injuries from Gardasil, other than the usual ones. In fact, in a recently published, well designed study with substantial medical follow-up, which I discussed in detail last year, the authors concluded that, “this study did not detect evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years of age secondary to vaccination with HPV4.” So, why is it YOUR daughter happens to be injured, when in a multi-center study of 190,000 girls and women who received the vaccination over two years, not a single major “vaccine injury” occurred. Without access to your daughter’s medical records, I have no clue whether you’re telling the truth or not. Maybe it’s a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, where just because something, like a so-called vaccine injury, happens after the vaccination, there is a presumption (and blame) that the vaccine caused it. Or you just want to blame someone for something that just happens.

As a marketing professional in the pharma industry, you probably noticed the brilliance of the Gardasil marketing campaigns that were launched in 2006. 

Pharmaceutical companies advertise. And when they have something that can actually prevent deadly cancers, maybe they ought to get the news out there. Unless you can prove to me that the marketing program did something unethical or illegal, that’s a Strawman Argument. Oh, one more thing. Most of my career was in research & development and executive management. Marketing was just ticket punch in my career.

I thought that since I had pre-cervical cancer, this would be good for my daughter. 

Smartest thing you stated in the whole email rant to me. However, Gardasil prevents the HPV infection which prevents the cervical cancer, so I don’t think your daughter is more pre-disposed to HPV because you had cervical cancer.

I was wrong as my daughter now has a future filled with health uncertainty and chronic illness.  

I have no clue what your daughter has (see my comment above about her medical files, which I do not want to see). Maybe it’s something bad. And for that I’m sympathetic, but I am not going to relate your daughter’s issues with Gardasil without a lot of medical documentation.

It is obvious that you have not researched the VAERS reports (a flawed reporting system with less than 10% reporting); you have not noticed that 128 deaths and almost 29,000 adverse reports filed. In the transcripts of the Commission of Childhood Vaccines (March 3-4, 2011), it was reported that 26% of claims in Vaccine Court were due to Gardasil.  When will science begin to look at the patients who have suffered injury?  We never received any follow up from CDC. 

Yes, VAERS is a flawed reporting system, but not for the reasons YOU think. It’s flawed because any crackpot with an axe to grind files a report. And because it takes real researchers to establish a causal link between the vaccination and the so called adverse event. Are we going to condemn a lifesaving drug (yes, I also have proof that Gardasil saves lives) because people are reporting adverse events for which we have no clue as to the veracity of the claims. Gardasil could theoretically save 200,000 lives a year from HPV-related cervical cancer. Even if you could actually prove to me scientifically that 128 deaths resulted from Gardasil, the trade off would be incredibly positive, but we would work to improve the vaccine.

The CDC has issued many statements about the HPV vaccine. Here’s what they say about the safety of the vaccine:

FDA has licensed the vaccines as safe and effective. Both vaccines were tested in thousands of people around the world. These studies showed no serious side effects. Common, mild side effects included pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea. As of July 2012, approximately 46 million doses of quadrivalent HPV vaccine were distributed in the United States. As with all vaccines, CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines very carefully. These vaccine safety studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe.

Let’s read that carefully: 46 million doses have been given to young girls and women (and presumably boys and men). If there was a wild outbreak of adverse events as a result of the HPV vaccine, our ER’s and hospitals will be overflowing with “vaccine injured” patients. And your accusation that the CDC is avoiding the issue is just plainly wrong. The CDC is made up of government employees and US Public Health Service officers who are devoted to saving human lives. Any claim that they’re doing something unethical should come with proof, which I presume you lack.

We traveled far and to many outstanding medical facilities to find out what was going on.  We ended up at Mayo Clinic and after a two-week stay, it all pointed to Gardasil.  Still skeptical?…talk to the parents who do not have a child or one whose healthy life was changed by a drug that was fast tracked in one half the time a vaccine usually takes to get to the market.   

Anecdotes have no value to a skeptic, a scientist or anyone with critical thinking skills. Please show me the case study published in a peer reviewed journal that the Mayo Clinic physicians wrote about your daughter that provides causal evidence that Gardasil had anything to do with your so-called “vaccine injured” daughter. Yes, they would write that, because it would be important information, though case studies rank at the bottom of scientific information. 

In addition, you think the vaccine was fast-tracked? In fact, the vaccine was discovered in 1988. It wasn’t approved by the FDA until 2006, and it did not go through the fast-track process in the FDA, unless 18 years is “fast tracking.” My guess is that you read the poorly written Wikipedia article about the HPV vaccine that conflates the process that many countries use to approve a drug (they usually accept the FDA’s approval) with the FDA’s formal method of fast-tracking. And major areas of the world, Canada, the EU, Japan, Australia, and others, use their own regulatory process for new drugs. I could find no evidence that any of those countries fast tracked the vaccine.

If there were 5 deaths associated with a faulty vehicle, there would be a recall and the manufacturer would be accountable.  Pharma and the federal government has assured that death by product negligence is not important for the “greater good”.   Is it any wonder that the amount of vaccines that kids receive before age 6 has tripled since the inception of Vaccine Court? 

Well, the National Transportation Safety Board was doing it’s job with the Toyota brake issue. Because there seems to have been an issue with its brakes (even though more recent reports blame driver error). With regards to vaccines, there’s no evidence that they’re dangerous and should be recalled; all we have are anecdotes, lies, and misinformation. Yes, some vaccines have extremely rare adverse events, one of which I recently described. All medical procedures are potentially harmful, it’s the benefits that matter in the end. If every woman had the Gardasil vaccination, we could end cervical cancer in a generation. That would save 200,000 lives. But YOU live in some Nirvana Fallacy, where if it isn’t perfect, it’s crap. Well, that’s not the real world.

Walk a day in my daughter’s shoes or any other vaccine injured child or adult affected by Gardasil.  They are real, they suffer and are not part of pseudoscience or internet imagery.

I’m usually disgusted by the presumption that because I haven’t personally experienced something, then I cannot possibly understand it. Well, that’s just messed up on your part. How about YOU walk in the shoes of all the girls whose lives are better because they won’t get cervical cancer. No, in your mind, you think only your story, of which you have provided not one single iota of proof, is the only story that matters. Sorry, but that’s not how it works.

I am sympathetic to you and your daughter. I don’t know what happened (and it’s not my job to know it). But blaming a vaccine, for which there isn’t a scintilla of evidence supporting a belief that it is generally harmful, isn’t the right way to go about it. How about genetics? Or just random chance? Or anything? Maybe you want to blame a vaccine because your perfect genes couldn’t have possibly caused whatever tragedy your daughter is facing.

Gardasil saves lives. And I can prove it.


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!