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

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.

All about HPV and HPV vaccines

I know I cut and paste this section to every article I write about HPV vaccines, but it’s the first step to HPV vaccine myth debunking. Some readers may be coming here for the first time, and they ought to know just how the HPV vaccine prevents cancer.

However, I try to update this section when necessary with new information about either the disease or the vaccine. If you’ve read this section 47 times, just skip down to the next section where I discuss the key point of this article. 

Genital and oral human papillomavirus (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. Of those 40 strains, most are fairly rare.

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:

In addition, there is some evidence that HPV infections are causally linked to skin and prostate cancers. The link to skin cancer is still preliminary, but there is much stronger evidence that HPV is linked to many prostate cancers.

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. The CDC also states that over 43,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year. It may be several times that amount worldwide.

There were two HPV vaccines on the world market before 2014. GSK, also known as GlaxoSmithKline, produced Cervarix, a bivalent (protects against two HPV strains) 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 strains) and 9-valent (against nine HPV strains) 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, protecting against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. It targets the four HPV strains found 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 to females or males before they become exposed to possible HPV infection through intimate contact.

Gardasil is one of the easiest and best ways to prevent a few dangerous and, to abuse the definition slightly, common cancers that afflict men and women. Without a doubt, the HPV vaccine prevents cancer.

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.

Let me sum this all up so that if you come away from this section with nothing else, you get this summary. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. HPV causes 43,000 cancers a year in the USA alone. The HPV vaccine prevents becoming infected by HPV, which means you are protected from these cancers.

HPV vaccine myth debunking
Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash

HPV vaccine facts

FactsHPV Vaccine
ManufacturerMerck
Vaccine nameGardasil, Gardasil9
Size of clinical trialThere have been dozens of phase 3 and post-marketing clinical, case-control, and cohort studies that include millions of individuals
EffectivenessAccording to one of the most recent studies, the HPV vaccine is at least 89% effective in preventing pre-cervical cancer after 10 years.
TechnologyRecombinant virus-like particles of the L1 proteins of HPV.
AvailabilityCurrent
DosesTwo doses, about six months apart
Ingredients• Major capsid protein L1 epitope of HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 (Gardasil)
• Major capsid protein L1 epitope of HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 (Gardasil-9)
• amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate (adjuvant)
• sodium chloride (salt for buffering)
• yeast protein (from recombinant technology)
• L-histidine (amino acid)
polysorbate 80 (stabilizes vaccine for storage)
sodium borate (buffer)
Allergic reactionsNone observed
Number of people who died from vaccineNone
Safe for pregnancyAccording to the CDC, “The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. Studies show that the HPV vaccine does not cause problems for babies born to women who were vaccinated while pregnant, but more research is still needed. A pregnant woman should not get any doses of the HPV vaccine until her pregnancy is completed.”
AgesIn the USA, Gardasil is indicated for:

• girls and women 9 through 45 years of age for the prevention of the following diseases: Cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, oropharyngeal, and other head and neck cancers caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11.

• girls and women 9 through 45 years of age for the following precancerous or dysplastic lesions caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.

• boys and men 9 through 45 years of age for the prevention of the following diseases: Anal, oropharyngeal, and other head and neck cancers caused by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Genital warts (condyloma acuminata) caused by HPV types 6 and 11.

• boys and men 9 through 45 years of age for the following precancerous or dysplastic lesions caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
Contra-indicationsAccording to the package insert, “GARDASIL 9 is contraindicated in individuals with hypersensitivity, including severe allergic reactions to yeast, or after a previous dose of GARDASIL 9 or GARDASIL®.”
Because of the size of this chart, you may have to swipe left in some browsers to see all of the columns.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

HPV vaccine myth debunking

MythsHPV vaccine myth debunking
Did Japan ban Gardasil?Japan’s Ministry of Health did withdraw its recommendation for the vaccine, but only because they used bad mathematics. They accepted supposed “adverse events” after the Gardasil vaccine as causal, even though the rate after vaccination was LOWER than the general non-vaccinated population. So let me repeat myself – NO.
Is Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher, against HPV vaccines?NO. In fact, Dr. Diane Harper is a vocal supporter of the HPV vaccine.
Does the HPV vaccine cause promiscuity?NO.
Does the HPV vaccine cause POTS?NO, it does not cause POTS.
Does the HPV vaccine reduce fertility?NO (see Note 1).
Did an Italian lab find all kinds of stuff in the HPV vaccine? NO
Are the aluminum adjuvants in the HPV vaccine dangerous?NO
Does the HPV vaccine cause autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA)NO
Does the HPV vaccine cause autonomic dysfunction?NO
Does Robert F Kennedy Jr have anything useful to say about the HPV vaccine?NO and NO.
Did Christopher Bunch die from the HPV vaccine?No evidence.
Did Gardasil kill Colton Berret?A tragic story, but there is no evidence that the HPV vaccine was linked.
Does the HPV vaccine cause type 1 diabetes? NO
Does the HPV vaccine really prevent cancer? YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. And YES.
Does the HPV vaccine cause autoimmune disorders?NO. NO. And NO.
Does the HPV vaccine cause primary ovarian insufficiency?NO. See Note 1 again.
Did a former Pfizer executive whistleblow about Gardasil?Yes, but Gardasil is manufactured worldwide by Merck, and that former marketing executive knows nothing about Merck or Gardasil.
Because of the size of this chart, you may have to swipe left in some browsers and devices to see all of the columns.
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Summary

Let me make this simple. The HPV vaccine is extremely effective as published in real peer-reviewed articles published in real high-quality biomedical journals. And debunking the anti-vaccine myths was easy, again, based on evidence.

I’ll keep this updated over the years, as more and more myths come from the anti-vaxxers.

Notes

  1. I don’t know what it is about anti-vaxxers, but they really like to pull out the “fertility” card for vaccines. They did it with the COVID-19 vaccine, which was debunked, of course.


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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!