The HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases link is one of the enduring myths about the vaccine, which is regularly debunked by scientists. The so-called autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA) pushed by an Israeli physician, Yehuda Shoenfeld, and is called by some “Schoenfeld’s Syndrome.” He claims that the HPV vaccine are causally linked to various autoimmune syndromes.
However, ASIA is not accepted by the scientific and medical community (and see this published article), was rejected by the United States vaccine court, and should not be accepted by parents deciding whether they should vaccinate their children. Furthermore, the European Medicines Agency, which is the primary regulatory body in the EU for pharmaceuticals, has rejected any link between the HPV vaccine and various autoimmune disorders.
Despite the lack of evidence supporting the existence of autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants, and even more powerful evidence that it doesn’t exist, the anti-vaccine side still cherry picks articles to support their preconceived conclusions that the HPV cancer preventing vaccine is dangerous.
All about HPV and the vaccine
I’ve written about the HPV cancer prevention vaccine over 100 times – however, this might be your first bit of research into the HPV vaccine (known as Gardasil, Cervarix or Silgard), so I feel it’s important to give the readers a brief overview of the disease. If you’ve read it before, please skip to the next section.
Genital and oral human papillomavirus (HPV) are the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the USA. There are more than 150 strains or subtypes of HPV that can infect humans, although only 40 of these strains are linked to a variety of cancers. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Although the early symptoms of HPV infections aren’t serious, those infections are closely linked to many types of cancers in men and women. According to current medical research, here are some of the cancers that are linked to HPV:
These are all dangerous and disfiguring cancers that can be mostly prevented by the HPV cancer vaccine. If you’re a male, and you think that these are mostly female cancers, penile cancer can lead to amputation of your penis. Just think about that guys.
HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous as tobacco with respect to cancer. According to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV–approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV every year. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. About 27,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.
Let me make this simple. There are only a handful of ways to actually prevent cancer, and drinking a blueberry-kale-protein shake is not one of them. On the other hand, Gardasil-9, the current version of the HPV cancer vaccine, protects teens and young adults from 9 subtypes of cancer-causing HPV, which leads to lower risks of more types of cancer.
So, if you’re looking for an effective and inexpensive way to prevent a few of the 200-250 cancers that afflict humans, Gardasil is one of your best choices. That why I call it the anti-cancer vaccine.
New autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants “study”
In a recent study published in the low impact factor journal, Immunologic Research, the authors reviewed, Jara et al., the literature that claims that ASIA is a real issue. To be clear, this is a review article, but it is not a systematic or meta-review, which sits at the top of the hierarchy of medical research.
Basically, Jara et al. reviewed 4479 ASIA cases, from 2011 to 2016, which included 305 “severe” cases, along with 11 deaths. They claim that the severe ASIA cases were related to the HPV cancer preventing vaccine, silicone, flu vaccine or mineral oil injections. The 4479 cases were culled from published articles over that time period.
The authors then conclude:
Efforts should be made to discover the connection between adjuvants, autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases, because there is an increase in cases severe and life-threatening of ASIA.
You might think this is a definitive “proof” that ASIA exists, and it’s caused by vaccines (mostly the HPV vaccine, but also adjuvants and the flu vaccine). To disabuse anyone who would assume this conclusion, let’s critique this study from an unbiased scientific perspective:
- This was not a systematic review. It did not establish whether any of the articles actually showed evidence of causality between the vaccines/adjuvants and autoimmune diseases. It did not include huge studies that have shown no relationship between the HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases.
- This study makes absolutely no effort to compare results to a control group, say the general population. ASIA-like symptoms are found at the same (and sometimes higher) rate in the unvaccinated population as the vaccinated one. In other words, ASIA may be a syndrome that’s simply found in individuals irrespective of vaccine status. All of the studies included in this “review” lacked adequate controls that might establish a causal link between vaccines and ASIA.
- The study relies upon 40 studies only. Worse yet, 19 of those studies were authored or co-authored by Yehuda Shoenfeld, who has a vested interest in “proving” that ASIA exists. These studies seem to indicate a high level of bias of the authors, as if they were trying to find the published research that established a link, rather looking at all of the research to se if there is even a link.
- Some of the included studies had nothing to do with vaccines. Sixteen of the 40 studies cited had nothing to do with vaccines or adjuvants – most of them were trying to link silicone breast implants to ASIA, not vaccines. It’s possible that the authors were trying to imply that silicone is a vaccine adjuvant, but as far as I can tell, it is not used as such.
This study does not actually provide us with any data to conclude that vaccines are causally related to autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants. At best, it provides us a list of studies that can be cherry picked to ignore the well-designed epidemiological studies that actually establish that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and various autoimmune diseases.
The HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases study
I reviewed a study, also published recently, which was a properly designed case-control epidemiological study. According to the study published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, HPV vaccines do not increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases (ADs). This adds to the body of research, based on methodology that helps us establish correlation and causation, that rejects the hypothesis that the HPV vaccine is related to ASIA.
In this study, the authors evaluated the risk of autoimmune diseases over 6.5 year period after exposure to HPV vaccines (quadrivalent Gardasil and bivalent Cervarix) in adolescent and young adult women using data from a French medical registry, Pharmacoepidemiologic General Research eXtension (PGRx). The PGRx is a surveillance database that helps researchers monitor the occurrence of rare or delayed health events that may be related to the use of medications, including vaccines.
Here are the published results of the study:
- A total of 478 cases with AD against 1869 matched controls with no AD were included in the case-control study. A large majority of individuals in both the AD and control groups had received the quadrivalent Gardasil vaccine (95.3%). Additionally, over half of the study population had been exposed to at least one other vaccine during the 24 months before inclusion in the study
- The HPV vaccine uptake rate was lower in the patients with AD than in the controls without AD (10.9% vs 22.5%).
- Surprisingly, the group receiving an HPV vaccine had a more than 40% lower observed risk of developing AD. A similar lowered risk of central demyelination/multiple sclerosis (CD/MS) and autoimmune thyroiditis (AT) was observed in the HPV vaccine group. The researchers observed a statistically nonsignificant trend for reduced risk of connective tissue disease (CTD) and type 1 diabetes (T1D) after vaccination.
- No correlation was found between HPV vaccine exposure and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). The relationship between HPV vaccine exposure and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) could not be established since no cases of GBS occurred in individuals who received an HPV vaccine.
The authors concluded:
Exposure to HPV vaccines was not associated with an increased risk of ADs within the time period studied. Results were robust to case definitions and time windows of exposure. Continued active surveillance is needed to confirm this finding for individual ADs.
This data not only show us that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases, but, in a few cases, seems to indicate that there is a higher risk of these autoimmune diseases in the non-vaccinated group.
There is robust and overwhelming evidence that HPV vaccines are not related to autoimmune diseases. These are large, well-controlled and well-designed studies, not biased “reviews” of biased research. There is simply no known link between HPV vaccines and autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants.
The HPV vaccines, like Gardasil, help prevent some serious and dangerous cancers. I’m hoping parents begin to understand that there are few if any risks for the vaccine, with the substantial benefit of preventing cancer.
- Grimaldi-Bensouda L, Rossignol M, Koné-Paut I, Krivitzky A, Lebrun-Frenay C, Clet J, Brassat D, Papeix C, Nicolino M, Benhamou PY, Fain O, Costedoat-Chalumeau N, Courcoux MF, Viallard JF, Godeau B, Papo T, Vermersch P, Bourgault-Villada I, Breart G, Abenhaim L; PGRx-AD Study Group.. Risk of autoimmune diseases and human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines: Six years of case-referent surveillance. J Autoimmun. 2017 Feb 9. pii: S0896-8411(16)30214-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2017.01.005. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28190705.
- Hawkes D, Benhamu J, Sidwell T, Miles R, Dunlop RA. Revisiting adverse reactions to vaccines: A critical appraisal of Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants (ASIA). J Autoimmun. 2015 May;59:77-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2015.02.005. Epub 2015 Mar 18. Review. PubMed PMID: 25794485.
- Jara LJ, García-Collinot G, Medina G, Cruz-Dominguez MDP, Vera-Lastra O, Carranza-Muleiro RA, Saavedra MA. Severe manifestations of autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants (Shoenfeld’s syndrome). Immunol Res. 2017 Feb;65(1):8-16. doi: 10.1007/s12026-016-8811-0. PubMed PMID: 27412294.