Yes, I admit that is a clickbait title, especially for those of you who read this blog for science-based information regarding vaccines. But the point of the title is that it allows me to talk about two topics that got mashed together by an anti-vaccine website – whether Gardasil harms girls and whether the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is a legitimate group.
It would be a full time job to search the internet for every piece of junk science that attacks vaccines. Since Big Pharma Shill Checks™ only cover a couple of seconds of work, I have to limit my takedowns to a few select pieces of silliness on the internet.
And this one is particularly silly. Not only does Gardasil protect girls from sexually transmitted disease, it protects them against cancer. There is no harm.
And the American College of Pediatricians is a whole other story.
Once more about Gardasil
I’ve probably written about Gardasil, the human papillomavirus (HPV) anti-cancer vaccine, than just about anything else. The evidence that vaccine is very safe and highly effective against HPV is basically overwhelming.
Just for review, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA (and possibly the whole world). There are more than 40 HPV sub-types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. Additionally, some HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
HPV is linked to many dangerous cancers in both men and women, such as penile, cervical, anal, mouth and throat cancers. In fact, HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as frightening as tobacco for causing cancer.
Because HPV is so prevalent in adults, blocking the infection in pre-teens, teens and young adults can eventually lower the cancer rate for all HPV-related cancers. Maybe one day, it can be wiped out, like many other infectious diseases just through vaccination.
There are so few methods to actually prevent cancer – the HPV vaccine, by blocking HPV infections, is one of the best methods to prevent some of the nastiest cancers.
Evidence that Gardasil harms girls
During my daily search of anti-vaccine nonsense, I ran into an article entitled, “ACP “Outs” The HPV Vaccine Regarding Female Health Damage,” published in something called the Activist Post, which appears to be a conspiracist website. The author of the article, Catherine Frompovich, seems to pen a lot of anti-vaccine nonsense. Let’s just say that the website would rank pretty low on the hierarchy of evidence scale. Near Natural News.
Ms. Frompovich is the author of Vaccination Voodoo: What YOU Don’t Know About Vaccines, a horrifically bad book extolling her anti-science beliefs about vaccines. (And if you’re bored, please go to the Amazon reviews and tell it like it is regarding her pseudoscience.) So, we’re not talking about anyone with a real science background or actual openminded analytical skills.
In fact, she claims she has a degree in “Orthomolecular therapy.” For those of you who don’t know, orthomolecular medicine is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine belief that states large doses of vitamins cures everything. There is simply little, if any, evidence that excess vitamins do anything for anyone, unless, of course, you have some sort of chronic deficiency. Which can be diagnosed and treated.
She starts her article with this commentary:
What she’s referring to is a statement from the American College of Pediatrics – no, not the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a respected institution that uses science-based analysis to make recommendations on the health of children throughout the world. The AAP publishes the journal, Pediatrics, a high quality journal with a high impact factor (approximately 5.5).
The difference between the ACP and AAP are immense, and we’ll get to that later. But let’s stick to Gardasil.
The ACP claims that the VAERS data indicates that the vaccine has a lot of adverse effects. But dumpster diving the data in VAERS does not provide any reliable data that shows correlation, let alone causality. Moreover, the ACP delusion completely ignores large epidemiological studies which have concluded that Gardasil is extremely safe, probably one of the safest vaccines. I’ve written about these studies here, here, and here.
In other words, the ACP is relying upon anecdotal data found in VAERS in opposition to real, epidemiology-based studies published in high quality journals. And Ms. Frompovich buys into this nonsense. Well, if you read her book, you wouldn’t be surprised at all!
I want to be clear about something regarding VAERS. It does have a use. If a pattern is identified, which in the scientific world means “observations”, a hypothesis can be developed. But VAERS cannot provide, in any way, statistical evidence of correlation or causation. It’s not powered that way. Trying to make it into something that it is not is not science – it’s pushing a conclusion without science.
The ACP and Ms Frompovich also push the myth that Gardasil leads to ovarian failure. It’s based on an article written by two of my favorite anti-vaccine crusaders – Yehuda Shoenfeld and Lucija Tomljenovic. They recently had a paper “withdrawn,” “due to serious concerns regarding the scientific soundness of the article.”
Tomljenovic, along with fellow anti-vaccine colleague Charles Shaw in the Department of Ophthalmology in the University of British Columbia, have used terrible statistics and population level ecological data to to show that vaccines containing aluminum do harm. Except, there statistics are so bad, using fallacious methods that it’s inconceivable that any real scientist would accept their methodology. And most journals don’t.
In a recent article by Orac, an eminent but mysterious physician who spends most of his day demolishing pseudoscience in medicine, recently described Shaw and Tomljenovic in these terms:
Let me make this clear – the ACP (and by extension, Ms. Frompovich) presented absolutely no scientific evidence (unless you’re sycophants of Shaw and Tomljenovic) of any association between Gardasil and any of the claims made by the ACP.
The ACP even relied upon the notorious logical fallacy of Argument from Ignorance, by stating that “a causal relationship between human papillomavirus vaccines (if not Gardasil® specifically) and ovarian dysfunction cannot be ruled out at this time,” despite no research actually showing this.
The statement was written by Scott S. Field, a pediatrician with absolutely no background in epidemiology, immunology, or any other scientific field that would lend credibility to his statements about vaccines. Any vaccine.
Oh but he published an article in Medical Hypothesis, a predatory, low-impact, journal where junk science finds a home, because not a single real journal would publish it.
But before we discuss the American College of Pediatricians (I promise, it’s worth it), let me ridicule another bit of ignorance and outright misinformation from the pseudoscience believing Frompovich:
This one statement illustrates the lack of Frompovich’s scientific credibility. In fact, a 10 kg baby is assaulted by millions of antigens every single day of the week. The human immune system is a highly evolved, amazing, and powerful system. The immune system is a complex interaction between cells, organs, blood, proteins, complements, antibodies, and many other things.
The baby’s immune system (once they’re at 10 kg) is working at remarkable efficiency, unless she suffers from a chronic disease or malnutrition. The only way to boost the immune system is through vaccination.
And one more thing – “jungles,” whatever that means, harbor most of the new viruses and bacteria that are unknown to most babies. And adults. And vaccines don’t contain “disease organisms.” A real scientist knows this.
I can’t leave the whole Frompovich ignorance without quoting something near the bottom of her article: “Snopes / On Gardasil (a disinformation campaign?)” Snopes is the furthest thing from a disinformation campaign that you can find. However, it is a very good starting point to debunk some of the lies about the cancer preventing vaccine called Gardasil.
But I don’t fault Frompovich for providing misinformation about vaccines. She doesn’t appear to be sophisticated with regards to human biology, so I’ll excuse her ignorance. She’s just parroting the ACP, who should know better.
And that’s why we need to talk about them.
The American College of Pediatricians
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel about the ACP, so I’m going to quote a few sections from an excellent review about the ACP, written by Tara Haelle, a real science journalist. Let’s start at the top:
I’m going to guess that a lot of people might confuse the ACP with the AAP. Actually, when I first saw the ACP statement about Gardasil, I was genuinely troubled. Then I was pointed to what the ACP really is, and it is not the AAP.
The most important point to consider is that the “while the AAP relies on the evidence base to issue their policy statements, American College of Pediatricians relies on a politically-motivated social conservative agenda in drafting their policy statements.”
This is critical to understanding why the ACP has invented this so-called policy regarding the HPV vaccine – it fits the group’s political agenda, rather than an unbiased science one. Yes, once again, a conservative doctrine trumps (get it?) science.
The ACP, in their official position on Gardasil, pushes the trope that the HPV vaccine leads to promiscuity. This has been debunked by real science based on real epidemiology – not based upon a political agenda.
Recently, the ACP attempted to clarify their position on HPV, but the brutal condemnation, based on little or no evidence, remains on their website. Given the ACP’s non-evidence, politically-driven, positions of gay parents, abortion, and other topics, I’m not sure I trust their opinion on anything.
The ACP spends a few thousand words pointing out everything wrong with the HPV vaccine. Then, near the end of the statement, they write, “In conclusion, the American College of Pediatricians recommends that parents use the availability of HPV vaccines to usher in a discussion on human sexuality in a way consistent with their culture and values at a time when they determine their child is ready to receive that information, and to protect their children from potential harms, including cancer.”
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
On the other hand, the American College of Pediatricians has issued 34 public statements on various issues of health care for children. Go ahead read them. I’m not saying that it sounds like Republican Party political platforms, except that they do.
Please, read all of Ms Haelle’s article – she makes it clear that the ACP isn’t on the rails of evidence-based medicine.
Until someone shows me evidence, in the form of peer-reviewed papers with excellent experimental design and high quality statistics, that there’s a link between Gardasil and any of the so-called adverse events, I’m going to stand by the several studies with millions of patients that show that Gardasil isn’t linked to anything.
Well, there’s a lot of fainting when the patients see the syringe. I never knew that was thing.
- I use the acronym, ACP, in this article to refer to the American College of Pediatricians. This is done for readability, since I refer to them frequently. However, ACP generally refers to the American College of Physicians, an evidence based organization that has always supported vaccinations.
- Colafrancesco S, Perricone C, Tomljenovic L, Shoenfeld Y. Human papilloma virus vaccine and primary ovarian failure: another facet of the autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants. Am J Reprod Immunol. 2013 Oct;70(4):309-16. doi: 10.1111/aji.12151. Epub 2013 Jul 31. Review. PubMed PMID: 23902317.