Robert F Kennedy Jr pushes misinformation about the HPV vaccine

Robert F Kennedy Jr has made numerous false claims about the HPV vaccine, which is the cancer-preventing human papillomavirus vaccine. Of course, he has recently become a loudmouth anti-vaccine acolyte, who has been chastised by his own family for helping “to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”

For some reason, Kennedy has decided to target the HPV vaccine, providing the world with “25 reasons to avoid the Gardasil vaccine.” He would rather pass along “dangerous misinformation” about vaccines than focus on the health and lives of children by preventing cancer. I don’t understand his motivation, but it sickens me.

As a result, I must take the time to respond to his 25 false claims about the Gardasil vaccine with science and facts. I doubt Robert F Kennedy Jr will read this, but this is meant for people who might be on the fence about the HPV vaccine.

kennedy HPV vaccine

False claim #1 from Kennedy about the HPV vaccine

A placebo is supposed to be an inert substance that looks just like the drug being tested. But in the Gardasil clinical trials, Merck used a neurotoxic aluminum adjuvant called AAHS instead of using an inert saline placebo.

This is the start of many strawman arguments used by Kenndy about the HPV vaccine. He is claiming that amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate (AAHS), used as an adjuvant in some vaccines to boost the immune response, is “neurotoxic.” Of course, real science published in real science journals studied by real scientists says that aluminum is safe in vaccines.

Furthermore, there are no safety signals regarding “neurotoxicity” discovered in huge epidemiological studies of the HPV vaccine. None

Kennedy may be using a retracted study as the basis of his misinformation about the HPV vaccine. 

As for the placebo, since there have been zero safety signals regarding neurotoxicity, his claim is a pure strawman argument – because he has no evidence supporting his misinformation, he tries to make us look at the squirrel of how the placebo was set up. But he has no clue about clinical trials, so he is just pulling his junk science out of thin air.

Furthermore, RFK Jr is obsessed with aluminum toxicity and Alzheimer’s disease – something that has been utterly dismissed by the scientific community. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Society does not mention aluminum once in their discussion of risk factors for dementia

But let’s get back to the clinical study control trope. According to an article by the loquacious Orac, which will be relevant to Lie #2, 

Let’s look at the first trope, which is a common anti-Gardasil trope that it is an inappropriate control to compare an aluminum-containing vaccine like Gardasil to an aluminum adjuvant without the actual antigens from the vaccine. The argument is that the best control should have been normal saline; i.e., an inert control.

This is a profoundly ignorant argument when you have an intervention known to be safe based on many studies in many vaccines over the years (like aluminum adjuvants). When you have such an ingredient, then if you want to determine whether or not a vaccine containing that ingredient works and is safe, an excellent way to do it is to compare it to a control containing everything in the vaccine except the antigens that produce the immune response.

In other words, the adjuvant-only control is a very good control. Channeling antivaccine tropes aplenty, the authors of the review try their best to convince you that the real reason this control was chosen in so many studies of Gardasil and Cervarix was to hide adverse events due to these vaccines.

Of course, the existence of long term studies (like this one) comparing HPV vaccines to saline placebo controls rather undermines this particular antivaccine talking point. Basically, we have evidence from both studies comparing HPV vaccines to adjuvant-only controls and to saline controls showing that HPV is both effective and safe.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention the fact that the HPV vaccine was tested versus saline controls. Thanks, Orac, the heavy metal-loving surgeon.

False claim #2

Among girls and women who received the vaccine and among girls and women who received AAHS, an astonishing 2.3% in both groups experienced conditions indicative of “systemic autoimmune disorders,” many shortly after receiving Gardasil.

Kennedy is referring to this study about the HPV vaccine, which was published in a low impact factor journal of marginal quality. And it is a pseudo-systematic review, attempting to draw conclusions by bundling all of the numbers together, without examining how the test groups compared to the control groups in each of the underlying studies.

This is a serious error in analysis, since the anti-vaccine authors, who have been criticized by the World Health Organization, looked for numbers that supported their conclusions rather than doing real systematic analyses. This is not a legitimate study of the Gardasil vaccine. 

Of course, our good friend Orac, in the article mentioned above, also slammed this terrible study:

Overall, this is a terrible systematic review. It is clearly designed to make HPV vaccination look as bad as the authors can make it look by playing up known adverse events due to HPV vaccines, such as syncope, claiming that adverse events are vastly underreported, and citing papers by antivaccine cranks as “evidence” that there are all sorts of horrible things caused by Gardasil that “They” don’t want you to know about. Not surprisingly, it’s spreading in the antivaccine crankosphere. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen it on Natural News yet. It’s coming, though. I’m sure of it.

That’s what you get from pseudoscience – invent a trope that Gardasil is evil, then do everything you can to publish a terrible “study” to confirm your beliefs. 

And, one more thing. Huge epidemiological studies have shown no link to any auto-immune conditions. In other words, real science.

Kennedy HPV vaccine
Protect these teens from HPV. Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

False claim #3

Multiple scientific studies associate aluminum not just with autoimmune diseases but with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease as well as behavioral abnormalities in animals.

There are no robust, repeated epidemiological studies, published in high-impact factor peer-reviewed journals that support these claims. I’m sure that RFK Jr is relying on the recently retracted sheep study that tried to show that aluminum adjuvants are linked to autism. Or other “studies” (not actual studies, just opinion pieces) from discredited pseudoscientists. 

Actual peer-reviewed scientific studies completely dismiss these claims.

False claim #4

Merck lied to study participants, falsely saying that the clinical trials were not safety studies, that the vaccine had already been found to be safe and that the “placebo” was an inert saline solution. [Source: The HPV Vaccine on Trial  (photo evidence, pp. 6 and 12).]

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who happens to understand vaccine science better than RFK Jr., critically reviewed the book referenced. It is not evidence of anything. As Professor Reiss wrote about the “book”:

…uses unsupported, often suspect anecdotes, poisoning the well, and ill-founded claims to try to build a case against this vaccine protecting millions from cervical cancer. Their efforts do not effectively counter data from large studies and the views of expert organizations all around the world that HPV vaccines are safe and effective.

However, to refute Lie #4, there were numerous HPV vaccine clinical trials that did use a placebo. Like this one, which I reviewed many years ago.  

False claim #5

When Merck conducted clinical trials for its next HPV vaccine formulation, Gardasil 9, it used Gardasil as the “placebo” in the control groups, again relying on the lack of an inert placebo to mask safety signals.

This is one of the most ridiculous and unethical tropes of the anti-vaccine acolytes. The anti-vaxxers scream that all vaccines must be tested against a placebo group. 

Many vaccines are tested in double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies before licensing. And that includes the original HPV vaccine as we mentioned above.

However, it is unethical to compare a vaccine to a saline placebo if the antecedent vaccine is available. Gardasil 9 replaced the original Gardasil (which was quadrivalent), so Gardasil must be evaluated for safety and effectiveness vs. the original Gardasil.

RFK Jr and most anti-vaxxers do not understand this basic point. It is unethical and immoral to put anyone at risk of disease if there is a preventative vaccine already available. No clinician would participate in such a study. 

No Institutional Review Board (IRB), who are tasked at hospitals or academic institutions to review and endorse the ethics of any study that involves the institution, would approve such a study on humans. And the FDA demands that IRB approvals are part of the FDA applications for new drugs. Kennedy does not understand this point about the HPV vaccine – he claims that he is interested in the well-being of children, but he wants to create a whole clinical trial that is disgustingly immoral.

Let’s protect them from cancer. Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

False claim #6

The 500 micrograms of aluminum adjuvant (AAHS) in Gardasil 9 are more than double the amount of aluminum in Gardasil; this raises the question of whether Gardasil 9’s heavy reliance on the Gardasil trials for comparison is justifiable.

First, not to repeat myself, but this is another strawman argument because numerous large epidemiological studies have shown us no significant adverse effects of the Gardasil vaccine, irrespective of aluminum. 

Second, let’s refer to the most basic point of toxicology – the dose makes the poison. How does 500 µg of aluminum compare to real-world situations especially since aluminum is such a common element in the environment?

Breastfed infants ingest about 7 mg (or 7000 µg for those unfamiliar with the metric system) of aluminum during their first six months. Formula-fed infants ingest about 38 mg (38000 µg). Soy formula-fed infants ingest almost 117 mg (117000 µg) of aluminum. In other words, infants get nearly 14-234X more aluminum from food than from vaccines.

The air itself has lots of aluminum. In a city, the air contains 0.4 – 8.0 µg of aluminum per cubic meter of air. A baby inhales about 7.2 cubic meters of air every day, which means that they’re inhaling from 2.9 to 57.6 µg of aluminum every day. Thus, a baby may get from 1100 to 10500 µg aluminum just from breathing during their first six months of life, right around what you would expect from vaccines during that time period.

Of course, anti-vaxxers try to claim that getting aluminum from vaccines is somehow physiologically different than ingesting or breathing in aluminum. There is no biological plausibility for such a claim. And there is no robust, peer-reviewed evidence that supports such a trope.

False claim #7

The World Health Organization states that using a vaccine (rather than an inert substance) as a placebo creates a “methodological disadvantage” and also notes that it may be “difficult or impossible” to assess vaccine safety properly without a true placebo.

You can tell when someone needs to invent a list when they repeat themselves over and over and over. We’ve dealt with these placebo issues in False claim #1. And who are we to trust? The World Health Organization, staffed by dedicated scientists and public health officials, or RFK Jr, who disgusts his own family? I’m going with WHO. 

False claim #8

In the only Gardasil trial in the target age group (11- and 12-year-old girls) with a control group design, fewer than 1200 children received the vaccine and fewer than 600 served as controls. This single trial involving fewer than 1800 children set the stage for the vaccine’s subsequent marketing to millions of healthy preteens all over the world.

Not only does RFK Jr not understand vaccine science, but he never took a statistics course. Clinical trials are routinely in the low 1000s because the results can be shown to be statistically valid at that point.

He is a politician (though not even in the same class as most of his family) – public opinion polls do not require millions of respondents to be accurate. Many highly accurate polls only require a few hundred individuals to represent a whole country. 

We don’t need to have a million individuals in a clinical trial to get statistically valid results. And, once again, we have huge, +1 million subject epidemiological studies that are powered to find tiny events that may signal an issue with the HPV vaccine. And, once again, we’ve found nothing.

False claim #9

The Gardasil clinical trials had numerous exclusion criteria. Not allowed to participate in the trials were people with: severe allergies; prior abnormal Pap test results; over four lifetime sex partners; a history of immunological disorders and other chronic illnesses; reactions to vaccine ingredients, including aluminum, yeast, and benzonase; or a history of drug or alcohol abuse—yet Merck now recommends Gardasil for all of these groups.

This betrays RFK Jr’s either intentional or unintentional ignorance of the construction of clinical trials. The study design must control for as many factors as possible, otherwise, we’d get nonsense results. 

For example, someone with severe allergies may be contraindicated for a vaccine. Someone with abnormal Pap test results may already have HPV (seriously, how could he not understand this basic point). Someone who has had over four lifetime sex partners is at risk of an HPV infection already. 

A proper clinical trial needs to be set up in a way that allows the researchers to answer two simple questions – does it work, and is it safe? If they don’t have exclusion criteria, all we would have is a giant jumble of data that makes no sense.

RFK Jr ought to quit playing a scientist on the internet because he’s really bad at it.

gardasil vaccine

False claim # 10

Some of the study participants—but not all—were given “report cards” to record short-term reactions such as redness and itching. The report cards monitored reactions for a mere 14 days, however, and Merck did not follow up with participants who experienced serious adverse events such as systemic autoimmune or menstrual problems.

RFK Jr, along with not understanding anything about clinical research, also has no clue about anecdotes – they are not data. His claims about “serious adverse events” are based on a roundly criticized Slate article

As Vaxopedia concluded about this article:

Downplaying the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases, while trying to scare folks about vaccines – that’s what gets you labeled as anti-vaccine.

Furthermore, causality cannot be determined beyond a few days. After that, the accuracy of such data becomes increasingly useless. And, since RFK Jr is only utilizing anecdotes, not real science, there is nothing here.

False claim #11

Injured participants complained that Merck rebuffed their attempts to report adverse side effects. In numerous instances, Merck maintained that these “weren’t related to the vaccine.”

Once again, RFK Jr. is referring to the Slate article (because he’s trying to make the list to number 25, he’s repeating himself). I guess that Merck “rebuffed” their efforts because they knew they were in the control group.

Nevertheless, let me repeat this once again – huge, unbiased epidemiological studies have found nothing. And the FDA found no malfeasance either.

False claim #12

Half (49.6%) of the clinical trial subjects who received Gardasil reported serious medical conditions within seven months. To avoid classifying these injuries as adverse events, Merck dismissed them as “new medical conditions.”

Once again, this shows his complete lack of understanding of clinical trials. Many of the “serious medical conditions” were simply not related to the vaccine. There is just no reasonable scientific logic that would tie the vaccine to these conditions.

Moreover, because so many other confounding factors would arise over such a time, such as other health issues arising because health issues arise all the time with individuals, it’s nearly impossible to determine causality. That’s why post-marketing studies are employed – they continue to monitor for short- and long-term results.

And, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this – huge epidemiological studies, which have no time limit, have shown nothing with regards to the Gardasil vaccine.

False claim #13

The median age of cervical cancer death is 58 years. Gardasil targets millions of healthy preadolescents and teens for whom the risk of dying from cervical cancer is practically zero. Interventions for healthy people must have a risk profile that is also practically zero.

Once again, RFK Jr. shows his ignorance of science and healthcare, especially the treatment of cancer. Cancer does not occur from an on/off switch, one of the many myths pushed by people ignorant of the disease.

HPV is linked to over 46,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year (with similar numbers in other regions of the world). HPV doesn’t cause HPV-related cancer to appear tomorrow – it could take decades. Prevention of HPV must happen BEFORE the teen has a chance to contract the virus.

Of all of the false claims pushed by Kennedy about the HPV vaccine, this may be the most idiotic. He is completely clueless about how cancer arises in humans. And he makes this ridiculous unscientific claim putting young women at risk of cancer. 

And one more thing – HPV is not just about cervical cancer in women. 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 both women and men:

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.

RFK Jr has no understanding, comprehension, or knowledge of HPV vaccine facts. He should be embarrassed about writing these lies. But we know he isn’t.

Happily protected from HPV infections. Photo by Cristina Pop on Unsplash.

False claim #14

Annual deaths from cervical cancer in the U.S. are 2.3/100,000. The death rate in the Gardasil clinical trials was 85/100,000—or 37 times that of cervical cancer.

First of all, RFK Jr. has no clue about HPV and cancer again. Yes, the mortality rate from cervical cancer is low, he seems to believe that 2.3 deaths are not important. What?

I guess his entitled, privileged world thinks that those are just too few deaths from cancer to be prevented by a safe vaccine. Moreover, he seems to not understand the psychological and economic harm from a cancer diagnosis, irrespective of death.

Second, he’s misusing statistics to further his goals to ignore HPV vaccine facts. Yes, the mortality rate is “only” 2.3 out of 100,000 population. But that’s not what matters. The critical point is that over 30% of women who contract cervical cancer die of it. Why would RFK Jr. ignore this fact?

Third, he’s misusing the mortality rate in Gardasil clinical trials. Every single one of those deaths in the clinical trials was not linked to the vaccine. Some of them were traffic accidents – and if you’re going to link traffic deaths to the HPV vaccine, I’m going to need some robust scientific evidence to support such a claim. 

This goes back to Kennedy’s utter lack of understanding of clinical trials. By regulation, every death of every patient in the clinical trial, whether linked to a vaccine or not, must be reported. On the other hand, reviews (pdf) of all of the clinical and epidemiological studies of the HPV vaccine have shown that there is no difference in serious adverse events, including death, between the study and control groups. 

RFK Jr can invent his lies about Gardasil, but HPV vaccine facts are facts.

False claim #15

With 76 million children vaccinated at an average cost of $420 for the three-shot Gardasil series, the cost of saving one American life from cervical cancer amounts to about $18.3 million dollars. By contrast, the value of a human life according to the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS’s) National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is $250,000—the maximum amount that the government program will award for a vaccine-related death.

This is a ridiculous comparison based on numbers that RFK jr. pulled out of thin air. He’s trying to create a strawman argument that the NVICP only values life at $250,000 from a “vaccine injury.” Although there is just no published, scientific evidence that any vaccine has been linked to any mortality event in the last 25 years, RFK Jr. wants us to believe that lives are worth so little compared to the cost of vaccines.

Furthermore, no child in the USA spends a penny on the HPV vaccine – by law, every American under the age of 18 is entitled to free HPV vaccines from their parent’s healthcare insurance, from Medicaid, or through the Vaccines for Children Program. Of course, the vaccine isn’t free for the US taxpayer, but individuals are not encumbered by the cost of preventing dangerous cancers.

What he ignores is the massive cost of cervical cancer (again, it’s his entitled upbringing that seems to not afflict other members of the Kennedy clan). Each cancer case can cost from US$4,000 to 40,000 depending on how it must be treated. Moreover, this does not include the loss of income, loss of productivity, and psychological cost incurred with any cancer diagnosis.

Again, his privilege is showing.

False claim #16

According to Gardasil’s package insert, women are 100 times more likely to suffer a severe event following vaccination with Gardasil than they are to get cervical cancer.

Kennedy lacks any understanding of how to read a package insert for the HPV vaccine. Just because an adverse event is placed in the package insert, it does not mean that they are linked to the HPV vaccine. Package inserts are nearly useless except for a couple of key sections, and adverse events are not one of them.

And one more thing – powerful scientific research has, once again, shown no difference in adverse events between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. But that’s science, and RFK Jr must have flunked the class. 

I’m starting to notice a trend here — Kennedy slightly retreads previous false claims about the HPV vaccine just to make this list hit 25.

HPV vaccine facts
Science. I hope RFK Jr learns some. Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

False claim #17

The chances of getting an autoimmune disease from Gardasil, even if the vaccine works, are 1,000 times greater than the chances of being saved from a cervical cancer death.

No. A huge, 2 million patient study examined showed no difference in risk of autoimmune disorders between the HPV vaccine group and the general population. 

False claim #18

Women in Gardasil clinical trials with evidence of current HPV infection and previous exposure to HPV had a 44% increased risk of developing cervical lesions or cancer following vaccination.

Once again, no. Large epidemiological studies have shown a reduction in precancerous cervical lesions in the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated groups. This over-reliance on tearing apart a package insert shows the laziness and scientific naïveté of Kennedy and his minions to examine the HPV vaccine.

False claim #19

Women who get the Gardasil vaccine as preteens or teens are more likely to skip cervical cancer screening as adults, mistakenly assuming that HPV vaccination is a replacement for screening and that the vaccine will eliminate all risk.

Somehow RFK Jr failed to read the article. First, the study involved an “underserved” population who may have limited access to healthcare services like cervical screening. 

Second, older recipients of the vaccine were highly motivated to get cervical cancer screening. The authors stated that “women vaccinated with three doses and screened at or after 21 years had the highest screening rate of 84% predicting a six-fold increase in screening participation over no vaccine received.”

This article did not state that the HPV vaccine is linked to skipping cervical cancer screening. It read more as an indictment of healthcare services for underprivileged women. Furthermore, let’s be clear about one thing – cervical cancer screening does not prevent cancer, but the HPV vaccine does.

False claim #20

Accumulating evidence points to Gardasil’s potentially severe adverse effects on fertility, including miscarriage and premature ovarian failure.

These claims are based on junk science written by a finance professor, Gayle DeLong. Of course, the article she published has been retracted because it didn’t show what she claimed it show.

My favorite heavy metal headbanger, Orac, wrote about this article from DeLong. His pithy comments about her need to be quoted here:

We’ve met Gayle Delong before, first in 2011 when she published a paper that was the ecological fallacy writ large trying to show that vaccines cause autism. Then, a year later, she published an equally risible paper about “conflicts of interest” in vaccine science that was really an attack on the Vaccine Court. Then, in 2014, Delong blamed her breast cancer diagnosis on dealing with her child’s autism and made it clear that she viewed autism as worse than breast cancer. Another thing that you need to know about Gayle Delong is that she is not a scientist, physician, or epidemiologist

…None of that’s stopped her from bravely paddling up the river of pseudoscience in topics where she has no expertise.

She was (she died recently from “autism-caused breast cancer,” blaming her breast cancer on an autistic child) a pseudoscience-loving quack, and her retracted article did not include any original science, just a rambling set of opinions. As Orac wrote in another article about DeLong:

Now that we’ve established that Dr. DeLong’s article is a blatantly biased bit of antivaccine propaganda, I’ll finish with the difference between an antivaccinationist and a scientist. Regardless of DeLong’s affiliations, a real scientist will look at her arguments and determine if they hold water, which is what I tried to do right here in this very blog post. If they do, that scientist might be persuaded. DeLong’s arguments, not surprisingly, do not persuade.

And “premature ovarian failure” (actually premature ovarian insufficiency) is not linked to the HPV vaccine. This is real science compared to the three (yes, 3) person study which was written by the multi-retracted Lucija Tomljenovic and anti-vax crackpot Yehuda Shoenfeld to further their bias against the HPV vaccine.

HPV vaccine facts
Cancer surgery is better than preventing cancer according to the anti-vaxxers. Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

False claim #21

Merck never tested the vaccine for fertility effects. However, Gardasil and Gardasil 9 clinical trials showed high spontaneous miscarriage rates of 25% and 27.4%, respectively—significantly higher than the background rates of approximately 10%-15% in this reproductive age group.

Here we go again, misusing the package insert. The 25% and 27.4% miscarriage rates are directly from the package inserts for Gardasil – but RFK Jr conveniently ignores the next sentence, which showed the miscarriage rate is higher in the unvaccinated controls for the clinical studies, and then compares it to another study that has nothing to do with Gardasil.

One of the worst mistakes one can make in science is to use data from one experiment and compare it to data from a completely different study that has completely different methodologies. This is, once again, scientific amateur hour.

The facts are that in the clinical study used in the package insert, the miscarriage rate between the vaccine and unvaccinated groups was statistically the same. 

False claim #22

Polysorbate 80 and sodium borate (Borax) are associated with infertility in animals. Both are Gardasil ingredients, and both were present in the one clinical trial protocol that professed to use a benign saline placebo.

Kennedy should study toxicology because he completely lacks an understanding of the science. I guess that’s the same with all of his scientific knowledge, which is zero. 

Each HPV vaccine dose includes about 50 µg of polysorbate 80 and 35 µg of sodium borate. Just for the metric-ignorant (one of my pet peeves about American readers, but that’s another story), a microgram, or µg, is one-millionth of a gram. For you barbarians, a microgram equals 0.000000035 ounces. 

In toxicology, it’s the dose that makes the poison. Our world has literally trillions of chemicals, most of them in tiny levels. The dose matters – if it’s below some threshold, then it has no effect. And as we increase the dose, we notice a slowly increasing effect. These chemicals don’t work by some on/off switch, where a little bit is all it takes for a toxic effect. 

Polysorbate 80 is added to some vaccines to stabilize the solution. Without it, the solution could damage the antigen (in this case the HPV virus), making it less able to create an immune response. It is used in numerous aqueous drugs, like IV bags, in artificial tears for contact lens wearers, and ice cream.

It has an outstanding safety profile at doses well above what is found in vaccines. A large toxicology study in rats (the only ethical way to do toxicology studies, in case you’re wondering), the largest dose of 50 gm (about 1,000,000X more than in vaccines) was mostly safe. 

As for sodium borate, it is used in vaccines to maintain the pH of the solution. Any significant rise or lowering of pH could destabilize the vaccine which will significantly reduce its efficacy. Going back to the “dose makes the poison,” the lethal dose of sodium borate is around 2.66 g/kg, or around 100 g for an average teen. That’s around 3 million times the dose in a vaccine.

I know that math and toxicology are difficult for Kennedy, but trying to discount HPV vaccine facts with bovine fecal material is laughable.

False claim #23

In 2015, Denmark opened five new “HPV clinics” to treat children injured by Gardasil. Over 1300 cases flooded the clinics shortly after their opening.

This is what is called an anecdote, not science. Who cares how many went to these “clinics” to confirm their biases against the vaccine. By the way, huge epidemiological studies in Denmark have shown that the HPV vaccines are safe. That’s real science.

False claim #24

Since Gardasil came on the U.S. market in 2006, people have reported over 450 deaths and over 61,000 serious medical conditions from HPV vaccines to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Dumpster diving in the VAERS database, which cannot be used to establish causality between vaccines and anything, is not used by any serious epidemiologist or public health scientist as a method to determine if there are issues with vaccines. It can be used as a “safety signal” for potential concerns, but then the signal has to be confirmed by either a clinical or epidemiological study. 

And guess what? We have a large number of huge clinical and epidemiological studies that have shown that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and “serious medical conditions.” As opposed to the false claims from Kennedy, the robust, repeated, and reliable scientific evidence seems to indicate the HPV vaccine is extraordinarily safe.

False claim #25

Merck lied to VAERS about the case of Christina Tarsell’s death, falsely claiming that her doctor blamed a virus instead of Gardasil.

I’m not sure how Merck “lied” to VAERS, which is just a database, but let’s discuss Christina Tarsell’s death. In an article written by Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss about the Tarsell case before the NVICP, the initial decision by the Special Master, which ruled against the plaintiffs, was overturned on appeal.

The final decision was based on flawed legal issues, completely ignoring the NVICP’s charter on how it is to handle causation. They also utilized a scientifically unsupported “hypothesis” from the aforementioned Shoenfeld that has no basis in either logic or science.

In essence, the decision was based on nearly biologically implausible assumptions within the decision. Because Merck has no responsibility or association with NVICP decisions, and because the decision lacked any scientific credibility, it doesn’t matter if Merck “lied” to VAERS. And they can’t lie to a database anyway.

As Professor Reiss wrote in her conclusion,

Ms. Tarsell lost her young daughter, which was a real tragedy. I don’t begrudge her compensation, but the decision in Tarsell III compensating her was clearly against the Special Master’s careful assessment of what the evidence showed in Tarsell I, was based on a very unconvincing theory of causation and drew on several legally problematic instructions imposed by Judge Williams in Tarsell II. This decision does not prove the contention that the HPV vaccines administered in this case contributed to Christina’s unfortunate death. If anything, the content of the Special Master’s decision in Tarsell III suggests just the opposite.

Summary of the Kennedy false claims about the HPV vaccine

That’s it, that’s the last of the list of 25 false claims from Robert F Kennedy Jr about the HPV vaccine. Every single point he made was refuted by HPV vaccine facts, something that is distressingly absent from his claims.

The HPV vaccine is demonstrably safe. That’s a fact.

The HPV vaccine prevents HPV infections. That’s a fact.

The HPV vaccine reduces the risk of HPV-related cancers. That’s a fact.

Kennedy has shown callous disregard for the health of children and future adults as a result of his attacks on the HPV vaccine. He has decided to lie about a cancer-preventing vaccine to encourage his sycophants and anti-vaccine zealots

All Kennedy wants to do is push fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the HPV vaccine. But that’s what they all do.


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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!