HPV vaccine myth debunking – all the science facts fit to print

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I’ve written nearly 200 articles on the HPV vaccine, debunking one myth after another. Despite the new COVID-19 vaccines being a recent target of various anti-vaccine myths and tropes, it has nothing on the FUD disinformation propaganda pushed against the HPV vaccine.

Like I did with the COVID-19 vaccines, I wanted to create easy-to-use charts for those of you who need a quick reference to debunk the nonsense out there.

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COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – UPDATED info about the new vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine facts
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There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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Autism and vaccines – 159 peer-reviewed scientific articles say no link

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Autism and vaccines are not linked or associated according to real science, published in real scientific journals written by real scientists and physicians. But this false claim that vaccines and autism are related is repeated by anti-vaxxers nearly every day.

Let’s be clear – the lack of a link between vaccines and autism is settled science. There is overwhelming evidence, as listed in this article, that there is no link. Outside of anecdotes, internet memes, misinformation, and VAERS dumpster-diving, there is no evidence that there is a link. 

Ever since MrAndrew Wakefield published his fraudulent, and subsequently retracted, study that seemed to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the anti-vaccine crowd has embraced it as if it were a scientific fact. 

This Wakefield chicanery has spawned a cottage industry of other anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree and his fraudumentary Vaxxed, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, James Lyons-Weiler, Tetyana Obukhanych, and many others. 

This article presents 159 scientific articles, published in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals. Almost all of them are either primary studies that include large clinical trials or case-control or cohort studies. They also include numerous systematic reviews, which represent the pinnacle of biomedical research.

All of these articles, from some of the top vaccine scientists in the world, show that there are no links between autism and vaccines. None. 

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FDA approval of Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab is disturbing

Alzheimer's disease drug
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Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new drug, Aduhelm (aducanumab), for Alzheimer’s disease in 18 years. The new drug is manufactured by Biogen, a US-based pharmaceutical company, and if you read the news reports and social media posts, you’d think the new drug is a miracle.

Given that Alzheimer’s disease afflicts over six million Americans each year, we wanted to celebrate aducanumab as a miracle. Except, there’s really nothing to celebrate here.

The FDA ignored the advice of its own expert advisory committee, which voted overwhelmingly (eight against approval, one for, and two abstained) to not recommend the drug because, according to the FDA’s own analyses, the drug failed to show that it can do anything to treat Alzheimer’s devastating cognitive decline. Plus aducanumab costs $56,000 per year (yes, $56,000) and comes with a relatively high risk for brain swelling and bleeding.

So what happened? Why on earth would the FDA approve this new drug for Alzheimer’s disease, even though aducanumab is expensive, has serious side effects, and probably doesn’t do anything to improve the outcomes of Alzheimer’s patients? And because the drug is so expensive and everyone will demand the drug for the disease, this could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the cost of healthcare in the USA and across the world (don’t believe for a second that this possibly worthless drug is going to cost only $5.00 in Denmark, because it won’t).

The answers to these questions are complicated, and I’ll try to explain. But I think what happened here is disturbing and tragic. And it could have implications for any new drug approved by the FDA.

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Germ theory denial – another favorite of the anti-vaccine world

woman in brown dress holding white plastic bottle painting
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I have been meaning to write about germ theory for years because a big part of vaccine denialism requires a good bit of germ theory denialism. Some anti-vaxxers want to create an illusion of scientific integrity by attempting to outright reject the germ theory of disease.

Germ theory is one of the central tenets of biology along with biochemistry, cells, evolution, and genetics. It is not some idea that was invented by those of us who support vaccines just to convince people to get vaccines. It is a foundation of medicine and biology that is centuries old.

This article is going to be a discussion of what exactly is germ theory, and briefly show how the anti-vaxxers deny it to “prove” that vaccines are unnecessary.

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COVID vaccine during pregnancy – uptake lagging in the USA

close up photo of pregnant woman in white dress holding her stomach
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The CDC strongly recommends the COVID vaccine during pregnancy to protect the health of the mother and the developing fetus. The CDC stated that there are “no safety concerns” among women in their third trimester and for their newborn babies.

Despite the claims of COVID-19 deniers everywhere, the disease is dangerous and can cause both short- and long-term harm to anyone, and that means pregnant persons and their newborn babies. That’s why the COVID-19 vaccine is so important.

Unfortunately, recent data from the CDC shows that COVID-19 vaccine uptake during pregnancy has lagged badly. There are a lot of reasons for this, as you might guess.

Let’s take a look at what the CDC is reporting and why pregnant persons should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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COVID-19 vaccines and myocarditis – what are the facts

medical stethoscope and mask composed with red foiled chocolate hearts
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Regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and CDC, are monitoring reports of myocarditis, a heart inflammation, after COVID-19 vaccines. Although if there is a link, it is exceedingly rare, anti-vaccine activists have already on this issue to make it appear that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.

My job is to look at this data and give you a scientific analysis of the observations and whether they are actually related to the vaccine.

Like with reports of other conditions, such as blood clots, after receiving COVID-19 vaccines, we need to examine whether myocarditis is actually related to the vaccine or just random events in which the incidence is no different than what would be predicted in a similar group of unvaccinated people. And if it is linked, we need to look at the potential risk and compare it to the risks of COVID-19 itself.

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Hospital COVID vaccine mandate – Texas Federal District court rejects challenge

Hospital COVID vaccine mandate
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This article about a Texas Federal District Court that rejected a challenge to a hospital COVID vaccine mandate was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On June 12, 2021 (yes, a Saturday), a Texas federal district judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by employees of the Houston Methodist Hospital against the hospital’s COVID vaccine mandate which required employees to be vaccinated unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

I wrote about the lawsuit here. It is a badly argued lawsuit, with multiple extreme claims, and it does a bad job in setting out the one somewhat plausible argument it has, the argument that you cannot mandate a vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). 

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Why can’t we get a cancer vaccine as fast as one for COVID-19?

cancer vaccine
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I keep reading memes and other nonsense that if scientists are so smart why can’t we have a cancer vaccine as fast as we did for COVID-19? It’s not a serious question, it’s actually pejorative – it’s meant to imply that we’ve been looking for years for a cancer vaccine without success, yet we were able to get a COVID-19 vaccine within a few months, so obviously it was rushed.

Fortunately for us on the side of science, this is one of the silliest and most desperate myths being pushed by our favorite anti-vaxxers.

Busting cancer myths is one of my favorite activities – my non-statistical analysis of medical pseudoscience puts cancer slightly above vaccines on the stupidity of the tropes. Combining vaccine nonsense with cancer is right up my bailiwick. Let’s have some tearing apart this trope.

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Annoying cancer myths – more zombie memes that can’t be stopped

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Anyone who follows the cantankerous feathered dinosaur knows that we tend to focus on vaccines, where the anti-vaccine religion focuses on tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and outright lies. Cancer myths seem to steal from the anti-vaccine playbook by pushing similar tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies.

I keep responding to these cancer myths all across the internet, so I thought that it might be useful to list out my favorite ones. No, it would take 50,000 words to debunk all of these cancer myths. For example, the Burzynski Clinic quackery is best handled by a real cancer specialist, David Gorski, MD, who has written well over 100 articles critiquing the Burzynski pseudoscience. So I’m going to stick with my personal favorites.

So, let’s take a look at these cancer myths, and I’ll do my best to debunk them.

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43,000 HPV-associated cancers annually – HPV vaccine can prevent most

HPV-associated cancers
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As I’ve written before, there are just a handful of ways to reduce your risk of cancer. One of which is to prevent HPV-associated cancers with the HPV vaccine (see Note 1).

Too many people who discuss the HPV vaccine, especially among the anti-vaccine religion, tend to focus on HPV-related cervical cancer. But HPV is linked to several dangerous and deadly cancers, and a new report examines the details of those cancers. 

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HPV vaccine efficacy in reducing HPV infections – Australia experience

HPV vaccine efficacy
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In the nearly 200 articles I have written about the HPV vaccine, I spend as many words discussing HPV vaccine efficacy as I do about adverse events (which are extremely rare, despite the pseudoscientific claims of the anti-vaccine world). I keep reading comments and claims from the anti-vaccine religion that there is no “proof” that the HPV vaccine prevents infections and certainly no “proof” that it prevents cancer.

Well, a new article has been published that that describes how far HPV infection rates have dropped in Australia nine years after the implementation of HPV vaccination. Spoiler alert – the infection rate went way down, even though vaccine coverage is far from 100%.

Let’s take a look at this article, which provides us with more evidence in supporting the use of the HPV vaccine. HPV vaccine efficacy is corroborated by this new data.

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