Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths

Gardasil safety and efficacy

There was an article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself. Some of the reasons why the HPV vaccine uptake is so low is a result of several myths about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating. Continue reading “Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths”

Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher – what are the facts?

Diane Harper

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded belief system about immunizations, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or Italian provincial courts to make their case about the lack of safety of vaccines. One of the latest ones involves a so-called lead Gardasil researcher, Dr. Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck (and GSK, who manufacturers Cervarix, a bivalent HPV vaccine), who apparently had some research role in the clinical trials of the HPV vaccines. But what are the facts?

It’s rather easy to debunk these claims, but because of the nature of the internet, old news is recycled as “brand new,” requiring a whole new round of blog posts to discredit the misinformation. It’s impossible to recall one single instance where a vaccine refuser made a statement about vaccines that was not, in fact, rather quickly debunked. Not one.

The pro-children’s health side, those of us who think that vaccines save lives, have been winning the hearts and minds for awhile, given that still around 95% of children in the USA get all of their immunizations prior to entering kindergarten. But that doesn’t stop the refusers from trying, because various zombie anti-vaccination memes keep reappearing, especially since the successful pro-vaccine bill was signed into law in California, keep infiltrating the internets.

Let’s take a look at the story and see what we find.

Continue reading “Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher – what are the facts?”

Peter Doshi, vaccine denier, sees a conspiracy about VAERS

Peter Doshi

I am not a fan of Peter Doshi, one of the go-to “authorities” for the anti-vaccine crowd. He has no credentials that would indicate that he is an expert in vaccines, yet one of his opinion pieces (not real science lacking data and evidence) is used as “proof” that flu vaccines don’t work. And of course, like all zombie memes of the anti-vaccine universe, it comes around every year or so, requiring a new debunking.

So what is he going on about now? The Poxes Blog reports that Doshi seems to think that something foul and evil is going on with the VAERS database. Sigh.

Let’s talk about Peter Doshi and his latest conspiracy theory. It’s always fun.

 

Continue reading “Peter Doshi, vaccine denier, sees a conspiracy about VAERS”

Lyme disease vaccine – good for dogs but not for humans

Lyme disease vaccine

If you go to your veterinarian to get the Lyme disease vaccine for your dog, just make an appointment and your dog will be vaccinated against this serious disease. If you go to your pediatrician to get the Lyme disease vaccine for your children, give up now. It’s simply not available.

Is it because Lyme disease is more serious to your dog than your children? Nope. Is it because Big Pharma makes more money from dogs than humans? No. Is it because the Lyme disease vaccine is safer for a dog than in a human? Not really.

Enough with the guessing game. The blame for why there isn’t a Lyme disease vaccine for children can be placed right where some of you expect it to be – anti-vaccine activists. This was in the mid-1990s, and the internet was barely usable without Google to help us, but there were people pushing the same narrative that we hear about the cancer preventing HPV vaccine – the Lyme vaccine was worse than the disease. Let’s take time to look at this story.

Continue reading “Lyme disease vaccine – good for dogs but not for humans”

Properly evaluating vaccine mortality – let’s not abuse VAERS

vaccine mortality

The public’s concern about adverse events, especially death, immediately or soon after vaccinations is very disruptive to vaccine uptake, leading to increased morbidity and mortality of vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, a 2009 Japanese study that showed 107 deaths following H1N1 influenza A vaccination, assumed a causality between the vaccine and the deaths without any evaluation of background rates of of deaths, which would help indicate whether there was any significance to the death rate or even if its related to the vaccination. Vaccine mortality is one of the most abused terms in discussions about vaccines.

It has been demonstrated that passively reported data, that is, data that isn’t actively investigated by trained researchers, cannot be used to assess causality. In an active investigation, it was found that only 2 of the 107 deaths had an autopsy performed, and most of the others had other underlying diseases and conditions that were causally related to the mortality events. Furthermore, 15 million people were vaccinated with the H1N1 seasonal vaccine, and it would be expected that there would be >8000 deaths during the 20 days after vaccination using a crude mortality rate in Japan. Though it would still be a misuse of statistics,  there really is more evidence that the H1N1 vaccination lowered the background death rate from 8000 to 107 post vaccination. Continue reading “Properly evaluating vaccine mortality – let’s not abuse VAERS”

We have a cancer prevention vaccine, and it’s called Gardasil

cancer prevention vaccine

I’ve written this so many times, but it bears repeating – there are just a handful of ways to reduce your risk of cancer. Quit smoking. Quit drinking alcohol. Stay out of the sun (and tanning beds). Keep a healthy weight. And add to that list a cancer prevention vaccine, and it goes by the name of Gardasil.

There are more than 200 forms of cancer known to science, and very few are directly preventable. Tobacco smoking causes around 85% of lung cancers, possibly the best understood cancer, killing hundreds of thousands of people each year. Moreover, smoking causes more than a dozen other cancer that kill thousands of more people. Never smoking, or stopping smoking if you do, is probably the number 1 guaranteed method of preventing cancer.

Similarly, the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly 40,000 cancer cases annually in the USA. And, like quitting smoking, we have the Gardasil cancer prevention vaccine which blocks HPV infections that lead to one of those 40,000 cancer cases.

Despite all that we know about HPV and Gardasil, it’s still a 50:50 shot whether a teenager will receive the vaccine. We need to change the dynamic about Gardasil, because it prevents cancer!

This article will review the science behind Gardasil along with its impressive safety profile. For those of you who don’t need convincing, maybe this article will serve as a good reference when you’re in one of those exhausting arguments with the anti-Gardasil crowd.

Continue reading “We have a cancer prevention vaccine, and it’s called Gardasil”

Vaccine open-mindedness – confessions of a science nerd

vaccine open-mindedness

Sometimes a reasonably intelligent anti-vaccine troll will show up to an internet discussion. Although they’re filled with various logical fallacies, like cherry picking, they will often say “you should be open-minded about vaccines causing autism.” The thing is my vaccine open-mindedness is the precise definition of what should be open-minded.

People conflate “open-mindedness” with “you should accept everything stated, because of insert logical fallacy here.”

Let’s use my favorite example, sasquatch, the mythical ape-like creature that inhabits everywhere, as far as I know.

A close-minded person would say, “sasquatch exists, damn the evidence.”

A pseudo-open-minded person would say, “sasquatch exists, because the Federal government is suppressing the evidence. Furthermore, just because we don’t have evidence today, we know we’ll find it tomorrow.”

A real open-minded person would say, “sasquatch does not exist, because of the utter lack of evidence. However, if someone brings irrefutable evidence, I will reconsider my position.”

In other words, a really open-minded person doesn’t have to be open-minded to the hypothesis proposed, just open to the evidence. I am pretty certain that sasquatch does not exist – that’s not being close-minded. Because what I would actually say is that “I reviewed the highest quality evidence, and I found nothing that would support the hypothesis that sasquatch exists.”

As someone once said, “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.” In fact, scientific progression is utterly dependent upon open-mindedness.

Continue reading “Vaccine open-mindedness – confessions of a science nerd”

Identifying who is anti-vaccine

It’s natural and important to ask questions about vaccines, to have hesitations and doubts. Luckily, for pretty much every question parents ask there are reassuring answers. There is a reason the expert consensus – across countries, and at the local, national, and international level – supports vaccines so uniformly: the data is clear that the vaccines we give children have tremendous benefits that far outweigh their small, if real, risks.

In addition to the reliable information available, there is also extensive misinformation from anti-vaccine sites and people who promote an anti-vaccine agenda. And identifying who is anti-vaccine should be an important objective.

As pointed out by several bloggers, including and especially Orac in this post and in this one, those promoting anti-vaccine information rarely admit that they are anti-vaccine. The National Vaccine Information Center, America’s largest, oldest and probably most savvy anti-vaccine organization denies being anti vaccine. The Australian Vaccination Network, as it was then known, does the same.

Similarly,  individuals may deny they are anti-vaccine even when they are. This can be tricky, because people may sincerely believe they are not-anti-vaccine while actively promoting anti-vaccine claims.

It may be hard for those not constantly involved in the dialogue surrounding vaccines to identify who is, in fact, anti-vaccine. I previously found extremely useful Dr. David Gorski’s post on this issue where he addressed in detail several arguments that can help you identify someone as anti-vaccine. The problem is that Dr. Gorski’s article may be too long and complex for those wanting a quick way to identify whether their interlocutor is anti-vaccine – or those who want to point out to others that someone is anti-vaccine.

So, as a public service, here is a short checklist. I am including it as part of this post and also as a stand-alone handout (pdf) people can send to anyone who needs it or use themselves. Continue reading “Identifying who is anti-vaccine”

Another study supports the long term safety of Gardasil

long term safety of gardasil

I’ve written more than 30 articles about the safety and effectiveness of various versions of the HPV vaccine (also known as Gardasil, Cervarix and Silgard, depending on the region where its sold and the the number of antigens in the vaccine). I’ve also debunked numerous myths and tropes about the long term safety of Gardasil and other HPV vaccines.

There have been huge studies, one that includes over 200,000 patients and another that includes over 1 million patients, that have provided solid and nearly incontrovertible evidence that support the long term safety of Gardasil and other HPV vaccines.

Though it is frustrating that some researchers publish “evidence” from small studies that are poorly designed in an attempt to invent issues with HPV vaccines, if you look at the best designed unbiased studies, the facts are clear–Gardasil is safe and effective. It could be one of the safest and most effective vaccines since it was developed and studied in the era of harsh, and mostly unfounded, criticisms of vaccines by certain antivaccine activists.

Continue reading “Another study supports the long term safety of Gardasil”

HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – no increased risk

I’ve written over about 50 articles about the safety and effectiveness of the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe) which reduces the risk of catching human papillomavirus (HPV), one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the USA.

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. I have written more detail about HPV infections if you are interested.

HPV is linked to cancers in men and women, and because there are so many subtypes, research has established which HPV types are linked to certain cancers. In effect, the HPV vaccine is considered one of the handful effective means of preventing cancer. You can drink all the kale/blueberry/protein shakes you want, and it’s probably going to have little or no effect on cancer risks, yet a simple and effective vaccine like Gardasil prevents serious and dangerous cancers.  Continue reading “HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – no increased risk”