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.
Many of us on the science side of the vaccine debate (it’s not a debate) think that of all vaccines, the one that’s most hated by the anti-vaccine radicals is the HPV cancer preventing vaccine. In fact, since this cancer preventing vaccine was launched after the anti-vaccine movement was really pushing their pseudoscientific narrative, it was subject to much more scrutiny in research studies and from pharmaceutical regulatory bodies. And as a result, it’s probably, by far, the safest vaccine amongst all of the other safe vaccines.
There are numerous large (meaning patient populations of over 100,000) safety studies of the HPV vaccines, which have shown us that there really are no significant adverse events related to HPV vaccines. Yes, there are typical ones, like fainting and localized pain, but nothing serious. Certainly, nothing that is even close to what the anti-vaccine people claim.
A few years ago, Dr. Diane Harper was the darling of the anti-vaccine world, for two reasons. First, she was one of the researchers who performed clinical trials for Gardasil. And second, she appeared to be against HPV vaccines, specifically Gardasil.
Here we go again. An anti-vaccine article was published in a journal, and now every vaccine denier will use it as absolute “proof” that vaccines are evil, bad, and useless. And that means one of the pro-science community has to provide a critical analysis so that those on the fence know what is supported and not supported by real science.
Despite it’s clear benefit to human health, the HPV cancer preventing vaccine, also known as Gardasil, is under utilized in the USA. There seems to be a lot of reasons why HPV vaccine uptake is low, but the evidence is clear that it is safe, it reduces cancer risk, and it lowers the costs of healthcare.
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.
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?