HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – not linked according to studies

Despite a lack of evidence that HPV vaccines are related to any neurodevelopmental disorder, the tropes and myths about the vaccine endure. To refute those false claims, we now have two new systematic reviews that show that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis. Let’s hope that more real scientific evidence will convince parents that the HPV vaccine is very safe.

I’m not naive, I know no matter how many real studies are published, the anti-vaccine religion will cherry-pick awful studies in predatory journals to make their case against the cancer-preventing vaccine. And they will ignore the two studies I will discuss that shows a lack of a link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.

Parents have so few choices to protect their children against cancer in the future – forcing them to drink gluten– and GMO-free blueberry kale smoothies are not one of them. Bringing your kids to a real physician to get them the cancer-preventing Gardasil vaccine is one of your best choices to prevent cancer.

All about HPV and Gardasil

Many of you have read this section an enormous number of times, however, for some of the readers of this blog, this article might be their first bit of research into the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Thus, it’s important to get a brief overview of HPV and the vaccines. If you’ve read this section before, just skip to the next section if you want.

Genital and oral  HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the USA.  HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

It’s important to note that there are more than 150 strains or subtypes of HPV that can infect humans – however, only 40 of these strains are linked to one or more different cancers. Although the early symptoms of HPV infections aren’t serious and many HPV infections resolve themselves without long-term harm, HPV infections are causally 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 in that respect. According to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV – approximately 14 million Americans contract a new HPV every year. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. Accordingly, over 31,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.

There were two HPV vaccines on the world market before 2014. GSK, also known as GlaxoSmithKline manufactured Cervarix, a bivalent vaccine. It has been withdrawn from the US market (although available in many other markets), because of the competition from the quadrivalent (immunizes against four different HPV subtypes) and 9-valent (against nine subtypes) Gardasil vaccines.

Merck manufactures Gardasil, probably the most popular HPV vaccine in the world. The first version of the vaccine, quadrivalent Gardasil, targets the two HPV genotypes known to cause about 70% of cervical cancer and two other HPV genotypes that cause genital warts. In Europe and other markets, Gardasil is known as Silgard.

The newer Gardasil 9, approved by the FDA in 2014, is a 9-valent vaccine. It targets the four HPV genotypes in the quadrivalent version, along with five additional ones that are linked to cervical and other HPV-related cancers. Both versions of Gardasil are prophylactic, meant to be given before females or males become exposed to possible HPV infection through intimate contact.

Gardasil is one of the easiest and best ways to prevent a few deadly cancers that are related to HPV. It is definitely a cancer-preventing vaccine.

(Just a quick note. There are actually two cancer-preventing vaccines. Along with the HPV vaccines, the hepatitis B vaccine is also important for the prevention of some cancers.  The vaccine prevents hepatitis B viral infections. Chronic hepatitis B infections can lead to liver cirrhosis or cancer. Liver cancer is actually one of the few cancers in the USA where the incidence has increased over the past few years. And if you follow the anti-vaccine rhetoric, you know the hepatitis B vaccine is almost as controversial as the HPV vaccine.)

Currently, in the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that preteen girls and boys aged 11 or 12 are vaccinated against HPV. The immunization is also recommended for teenage girls and young women up to the age of 26 who did not receive it when they were younger, and teenage boys and young men up to the age of 21.

HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – first study

A systematic review, published in January 2018 in the journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics (See Note 1), pooled results from 5 epidemiological studies, 9 reviews, and 1 randomized clinical trial. A systematic review is considered to be at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research.

The review of the cohort studies revealed that the relative risk for multiple sclerosis (MS) onset ranged from 1.54 (95% CI, 0.04-8.59) to 1.37 (95% CI, 0.74-3.20). In case-control studies, for the group exposed to the HPV vaccination, the odds ratio ranged from 0.3 (95% CI, 0.1- 0.9) to 1.60 (95% CI, 0.79-3.25). Neither of these results is significant, indicating that there is not a strong connection between multiple sclerosis onset and the HPV vaccination.

The authors concluded that:

This review showed no significant association between HPV vaccination and MS. The low statistical power of the studies agreed with the low incidence of MS disease among general population.

I should point out that, like many systematic reviews, the authors always request more studies to improve the statistical analysis of the review. This review found no statistical significance for a link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis, but with more data that conclusion could change (that’s how systematic reviews work).

HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – second study

Another systematic review and meta-analysis, published in April 2018 in the journal Pharmacological Research (see Note 2), examined potential links between the HPV vaccine and demyelinating diseases, specifically multiple sclerosis and optic neuritis (ON), both autoimmune disease with unknown etiologies.

Eleven articles were selected for the meta-analysis based on a complex set of criteria to remove bias and other factors. They found no significant association between the HPV vaccine and any demyelinating diseases with the chances of the disease being linked to the vaccines at 0.96 (which means that the risk of the disease is the same between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups). The researchers found the same results for MS and ON. Furthermore, they did a review of 14 safety studies and concluded that there was an absence of any relevant safety signals.

The authors concluded that:

This study strongly supports the absence of association between HPV vaccines and central demyelination.

Summary

These studies arise out of the claims that somehow, with little to no biological plausibility, that the HPV vaccine is linked to a variety of autoimmune diseases including demyelinating diseases. But these two powerful systematic reviews show no link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis. This adds more data to the body of knowledge that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis.

The HPV vaccine is one of the most powerful tools to prevent cancer. HPV infections that are prevented by the vaccine lead to over 31,000 cancer diagnoses in the USA alone. It could be 5-10X that amount worldwide.

And let’s remember that the HPV vaccine is one of the most studied vaccines ever. And what have real scientists found – the HPV vaccine is extraordinarily and demonstrably safe.

The HPV vaccine prevents cancer and saves lives. What are parents waiting for?

Notes

  1. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics is a niche journal with a moderate impact factor of 3.643.
  2. Pharmacological Research is also a niche journal with a good impact factor of 4.497.

Citations



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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!