HPV vaccine anecdotes – not the basis of real science

Anecdotes are a fundamental part of the anti-vaccine propaganda machine. We have a tendency to overstate the importance of anecdotes, because they usually have an emotional appeal to them. Anecdotes are not data, not even close. At best, they are observations, but they give no indication of temporal correlation, let alone causality.

HPV vaccine anecdotes have become part of the discourse about Gardasil and other HPV vaccines. It has become  full-time job just to debunk the myths that arise from a handful of anecdotes.

I have written on a number of articles about the HPV cancer-prevention vaccines, Gardasil, Cervarix and Silgard. These vaccines prevent infection by up to 9 different types of genital and oral human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA.

The virus is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is very easy to transmit, and according to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV–approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV every year.

HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous with regards to cancer as tobacco. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. And about 27,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.

There is  a robust body of evidence supporting the fact that HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing HPV infection. There are also several large studies (also, here and here) that strongly support the high degree of safety of the HPV vaccine.

Recently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA, European Union’s version of the US FDA) had started a review of human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines “to further clarify aspects of their safety profile,” although the agency also points out that this review “does not question that the benefits of HPV vaccines outweigh their risks.”

The outcome? The EMA found that the HPV vaccine was safe.

Continue reading “HPV vaccine anecdotes – not the basis of real science”

American boys aren’t getting cancer preventing HPV vaccine

The cancer preventing HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil, Silgard, or Cervarix, is one of the very few ways available to actually reduce the risk of certain cancers. The vaccine reliably blocks HPV infections, which are directly linked to several dangerous cancers such as cervical cancer.

Unfortunately, most boys in the United States aren’t receiving the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine according to a new survey of teen vaccination from the CDC.  This low HPV vaccine uptake may result from the failure of physicians to recommend the vaccine or adequately explain its benefits to parents.

Dr. Diane Harper and HPV vaccines–the tin foil hat version

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in August 2013. This article has been updated and re-published in a new article. The comments for this article are closed, so please comment in the new article.

I have written in the past about Dr. Diane Harper, a former Merck & Co. researcher who apparently had some management role in the clinical trials of the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), which blocks the transmission of several types of  human papillomavirus (HPV).

There are very few actions one can take in life to prevent even one of the 250 different types of cancer. Stop smoking. Keep a healthy weight. Stay out of the sun. And get an actual cancer preventing vaccine, like Gardasil.

The HPV cancer prevention vaccine is a vitally important part of the war against infectious diseases and some types of cancer. This vaccine blocks infection by several types of HPV. which are linked to approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. These HPV-related cancers can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection itself, which are generally passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal, oral and anal sex.

According to the dark recesses of the internet that are devoted to the cause of denying the value of vaccines, Dr. Harper had decided to “come clean” about Gardasil so that she could “sleep at night.”

The antivaccination world has attached themselves to this story, because they think it uncovers a conspiracy or lies by the vaccine manufacturers, since obviously Dr. Harper escaped from the evil clutches of Big Pharma. And because antivaccinationists do their “research” by Google, of course, this story keeps getting repeated until it becomes The Truth™.

Continue reading “Dr. Diane Harper and HPV vaccines–the tin foil hat version”

The myth of Gardasil researcher Diane Harper – debunked

Diane Harper

This article is out of date, and an article about Dr. Diane Harper has been substantially updated with new information and background. The comments have been closed, please comment on the revised article. 

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded belief system about immunizations, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, misinterpretation of data, or ignorant Italian provincial courts to make their case. 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 it’s apparent that the we have gone 360º, so a batch of old anti-vaccination memes are making the rounds again.

One of the latest ones involves the so-called lead Gardasil researcher, Dr. Diane Harper, a former Merck & Co. employee who apparently had some management role in the clinical trials of the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe).

Continue reading “The myth of Gardasil researcher Diane Harper – debunked”

Poll: your opinions about the new anti-cancer Gardasil-9 vaccine

© Copyright CSL, 2013. All Rights Reserved.
© Copyright CSL, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I just wrote a couple of articles about the HPV vaccine (known as Gardasil and Silgard, while a bivalent form is known a Cervarix)–one discussing risky sexual behavior after receiving the vaccines, and the other discussing the new Gardasil-9, which protects against 9 different subtypes of the human papillomavirus. This new vaccine can protect against the development of more types of cancers, and is one of the precious few tools we have to actually prevent any cancer.

Even though there are boatloads upon boatloads of substantial evidence that support the overall safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccines, parents have read too many myths and scary anecdotes to really embrace it. And that’s sad, because preventing cancer seems to be the right choice.

I consider Gardasil (and the other HPV vaccines) to be one of the most important pharmaceuticals on the planet, in that it clearly prevents HPV which clearly causes many devastating cancers. I was wondering what you think.

Rising rates of HPV-related cancer–Gardasil time for boys and girls

hpv-cell-changes-cancerCurrently 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.

As I reported recently, the HPV vaccine uptake has not been as a high as many would like in the US.  A recent retrospective epidemiological study of HPV cancers in Alberta, Canada, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal OPEN, seemed to indicate that HPV related cancers have increased substantially in the study years from 1975 to 2009, prior to the widespread use of the HPV vaccine in Canada. This is another indicator that increasing the rate of HPV vaccination is important. Continue reading “Rising rates of HPV-related cancer–Gardasil time for boys and girls”

One-dose HPV-vaccination still works to prevent cancer

The HPV vaccine prevents infection by human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease, specifically subtypes 16 and 18, that not only cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, but also they cause most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers.

The viruses are generally passed through genital contact, almost always as a result of vaginal, oral and anal sex. There is strong clinical evidence that the incidence of HPV infections have declined since the launch of the HPV vaccine and the subsequent steady rate of HPV vaccination.

In a community-based phase III trial of Cervarix (bivalent HPV vaccine) in Costa Rica, researchers reported that the Costa Rica Vaccine Trial (CVT) showed that the four-year vaccine efficacy against 12-month HPV subtypes 16 and 18 (HPV16/18) persistent infections was similarly high among women who received one, two, or the recommended three doses of the bivalent HPV16/18 vaccine. The researchers examined nearly 7,500 women, aged 18-25, in Costa Rica to determine both vaccine uptake (what percentage were vaccinated), number of doses, and HPV16/18 antibodies.

Some of the key results:

  • About 80% of the participants did get all three recommended doses, leaving about 20% who got one or two doses.
  • Researchers analyzed blood samples for HPV16/18 antibodies in randomized subsets who received one, two or three doses.
  • Antibodies to HPV16/18 was observed in 100% of women 48 months after vaccination with one, two or three doses. The only difference noticed that it appeared to take a slightly longer average period of time for 100% of the one-dose group.
  • Almost all participants in all vaccine dose groups were seropositive at approximately 1 month after receiving the first vaccine dose and remained seropositive throughout the 48 months follow-up period.
  • The researchers also compared “a natural infection group” against those who were vaccinated with Cervarix. For those vaccine deniers who say “natural infection is better”, the titers of HPV16/18 antibodies were 14-24X higher with two-doses of the vaccine, while the titers were 5-9X higher with one-dose vaccinations.

hpv-vaccine-controversy

The authors concluded:

The high efficacy after single dose suggests that long-term protection may not require the 5- fold higher titers induced by three doses of the vaccine. Fewer doses would be less expensive and logistically easier to deliver, therefore increasing vaccine accessibility worldwide. The findings also suggest that second generation vaccines might be strongly protective even if they do not induce the high levels of antibodies induced by the licensed vaccines as used according to current recommendations.

We know that the HPV vaccine is safe. Really safe in huge epidemiological studies. And we now have more evidence that it works, and it works better in protecting against HPV infections than so-called “natural immunity.” Unless you believe in lies from the antivaccinationists, HPV vaccines are one of the best ways to protect yourself from cancers.

 

If you need to search for accurate information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

 

Key citations:

Religion vs Gardasil

gardasil.colorAlthough I rarely state it on these pages, I am an atheist. As a scientist, I’ve examined the evidence for a god (any god), and found it lacking. I think religion, especially in the USA, can be dangerous. Religious fundamentalism is behind the attack on teaching of real science, such as evolution and global warming. Although some may argue that trying to block the teaching of evolution, in favor of creationism, is innocuous (though absolutely unconstitutional), most would argue that since evolution is the basis of all biology (and therefore, medicine), it is harmful. 

It’s when fundamentalist religion gets involved in medicine, whether it’s therapeutic abortions, vaccines, or stem-cell research, that it’s clear that religion becomes dangerous to human lives. I just want to focus on one tiny corner of the medical world, where religious beliefs block good medicine–HPV vaccinations.

For those of you may be unfamiliar with the HPV vaccine, it prevents infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. The vaccine, known as Gardasil or Cervarix in the USA, specifically blocks HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18; HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced analvulvarvaginal, and penile cancers. Cervical cancer, which afflicts 12,000 additional women and causes over 4,000 deaths annually in the USA, is considered the “preventable gynecologic cancer” because of the HPV vaccines. Continue reading “Religion vs Gardasil”