New vaccines wishlist — I am looking beyond COVID-19

new vaccines

I once was accused of not being opposed to any vaccine on the market, but little did they know I have a wishlist for new vaccines that goes beyond all that. Believe it or not, there are pathogens out there that still have a deleterious effect on the health of mothers, children, and everyone.

I just wanted to spend a bit of time talking about some of the diseases where new vaccines could improve health outcomes in significant ways. Let’s take a look at some of them.

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New Sanofi GSK COVID vaccine shows good effectiveness

sanofi gsk COVID vaccine

I thought that the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine would be the last one, but Sanofi and GSK will soon be seeking Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a new vaccine in the USA (and other countries). Although you might yawn at another COVID-19 vaccine, there are some good reasons to put this Sanofi-GSK version on your radar.

Since most of us have not thought much about other vaccines lately, this article will review this new vaccine, just so we are up to speed. And I guess I have to update my charts for COVID-19 vaccine myths and facts.

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Dr. Diane Harper, lead Gardasil scientist’s actual HPV vaccine research

Diane Harper

Anti-vaxxers love their false authorities, such as the infamous Tetyana Obukhanych. They also love to invoke Dr. Diane Harper as the authority of choice with regard to HPV vaccines. Obukhanych is truly a false authority, but Dr. Harper is much more complicated.

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded beliefs about vaccines, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or false authorities to support their case about the lack of safety of vaccines.

The so-called “lead Gardasil researcher,” Dr. Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck and GSK, had some responsibilities in the clinical trials for their HPV vaccines. But the claims about whether Dr. Harper supports or dislikes those vaccines are substantially more complicated than what the anti-vaccine zealots would like to claim about her.

Amusingly, every few months the social media haunts of the anti-vaccine crowd explode with claims that Dr. Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher, hates HPV vaccines.

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

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Lyme disease vaccine in clinical trials – good news for everyone

lyme disease vaccine

Even though dogs have access to a Lyme disease vaccine, there has not been a vaccine available for humans for 18 years. But that’s about to change, considering how much the tick responsible for the disease has spread.

Just to be clear, vaccine manufacturers do not value dogs more than humans for a Lyme disease vaccine. In reality, the blame for why there isn’t a Lyme disease vaccine can be placed right where some of you expect it to be – loud-mouthed, misinformed anti-vaccine zealots who lacked any scientific evidence supporting their claims.

Of course, the issues with the original Lyme disease vaccine happened in the mid-1990s, and the internet was in its infancy (hello AltaVista). But there were people pushing the same narrative that we hear about the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine – they claimed, without any scientific evidence, that the Lyme disease vaccine was actually worse than the disease itself.

That certainly sounds familiar!

But a new Lyme disease vaccine might be on its way fairly soon. That means adults and children can run in the grass, go hiking, and generally enjoy the outdoors without worrying about this debilitating disease.

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Anti-vaccine education – ignorance about science and about finance

anti-vaccine education

We all know about anti-vaccine education. They are ignorant about science. They’re unknowledgeable about clinical trials. They’re uneducated about the vaccine court. And they rely upon package inserts, written by Big Pharma of course, as their proof of whatever.

Now, it’s clear that human nature is such that when one takes a position, say on vaccines, they kind of lock in on it, despite the evidence. And the vast majority of unbiased, non-cherry-picked evidence leads to only one simple conclusion – vaccines are relatively safe and effective. A truly open-minded person, say a scaly extinct dinosaur, examines and re-examines their position in light of all of the evidence.

But it’s not just science where the anti-vaccine crowd gets it all wrong. I’ve written before about vaccine profits – if Big Pharma were as evil and nefarious as the science deniers claim, then vaccines would slowly disappear from the market. Why? Because the industry would make boatloads more money selling everything else to hospitals and physicians to treat long-disappeared vaccine-preventable diseases.

And there’s more. I completely overlooked the major problem with huge epidemics, which don’t exist today – there are insufficient hospital beds in all developed countries (and it goes without saying, it’s worse in poorer countries) to care for the hundreds of thousands or millions of kids who get sick. Every new bed in a hospital probably sends $1 million in revenues to Big Pharma (or more broadly Big Medical, which includes devices, equipment, and other products). The windfall to Big Medical/Big Pharma would be so huge that if ending vaccination were a real thing, I’d be going long in Big Pharma stocks, and waiting for the delivery of my brand new shiny Ferrari.

Related to the ignorant anti-vaccine education on Big Pharma profits, their utter lack of understanding about personal finance and investing is almost laughable. Especially, since it’s one of their core ad hominem attacks on several pro-science writers. Let’s look at one.

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Lyme disease vaccine for dogs – good for your pet but not for humans

Lyme disease vaccine

If you go to your veterinarian to get the Lyme disease vaccine for dogs, just make an appointment and your family pooch 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? Again, no. 

Enough with the guessing game!

The blame for why there is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs but not one 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.

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HPV cancer vaccine rates – Gardasil uptake remains low

HPV cancer vaccine

As I’ve written before, there are precious few ways to prevent cancer. But one of the best cancer prevention strategies is the HPV vaccine, which can prevent numerous cancers such as cervical, oral, penile and anal, all serious, and all dangerous. Maybe we should just rename Gardasil to “HPV cancer vaccine,” which could make everyone sit up and notice.

The HPV vaccination rate remains depressingly low in the USA. According to recent research, 39.7% of adolescent girls aged 13-17 received all three doses of the vaccine in 2014 up from 37.6% in 2013. HPV vaccination rates among teen boys are much lower than for girls, 21.6% in 2014 up from 13.4% in 2013.

There are probably a lot of reasons for the low HPV cancer vaccine uptake rate, so I thought I’d go through the most “popular” ones, debunking them one by one.

Hopefully, the reader can use this article as a checklist of the tropes and myths of the anti-Gardasil crowd with quick answers to them. Maybe you’ll convince one person to get their son or daughter vaccinated against HPV related cancers.

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Japanese HPV vaccine lawsuit – no science, no evidence

Japanese HPV vaccine lawsuit

The HPV vaccine, specifically the Gardasil 9-valent version, is one of the handful of ways to actually prevent cancer. Along with the hepatitis-B vaccine, the HPV vaccine helps prevent future incidence of dangerous cancers. Unfortunately, a Japanese HPV vaccine lawsuit has been filed in that country by 64 women.

Gardasil has had a tumultuous history in Japan. The vaccine is no longer recommended for Japanese teens, based on an unscientific analysis of evidence related to adverse events. The Japanese Health Ministry accepted supposed “adverse events” after Gardasil vaccine as causal, even though the rate of these adverse events after vaccination was LOWER than the general non-vaccinated population. It was total incompetence on the part of the Health Ministry.

Let’s take a look at this lawsuit in Japan – and we need to see what it really means.

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Is a Gardasil researcher really against the vaccine?

gardasil researcher

This article about Dr. Diane Harper has been recently updated. The comments here are closed, so please comment at the new article. 

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.

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.

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?

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Another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits

another flu vaccine myth

There is a more general article – about the myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – which has recently been updated and republished. 

The 2015-16 flu season is upon us, and that means it’s flu vaccine time again. And flu vaccine myth time. There is another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits – that needs to be debunked.

Despite the availability of several flu vaccines, many people think that the flu is a painless, harmless disease, a belief belied by evidence. Wrong.

To put flu in perspective, in the USA, depending on the severity of the flu season, from 3,000 (which happened 25 years ago, and hasn’t been that low since) to 49,000 people die every year. Worldwide, about 250,000 to 500,000 people die from the flu every year. A flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, killed 50-100 million humans, much more scary than Ebola.

Of course, a fairly large group of people, including some who are pro-science (read, pro-vaccine), will fall into the arms of their favorite flu vaccine myth, and then refuse to get the flu vaccine. Given the dangers of the flu, and given the loss in productivity, income, and lives, you’d think that the flu vaccine would be near the top of health care needs for the average person.

My fellow blogger, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top Myths about the flu vaccine. She debunks these myths completely out of the water. But antivaccination myths are never static, there’s always a new variant. Continue reading “Another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits”