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.
The HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, especially Gardasil (or Silgard, depending on market), has been targeted by the anti-vaccine religion more than just about any other vaccine being used these days. So many people tell me that they give their children all the vaccines, but refuse to give them the HPV vaccine based on rumor and innuendo on the internet. This article provides all the posts I’ve written about Gardasil’s safety and efficacy.
As many regular readers know, I focus on just a few topics in medicine, with my two favorites being vaccines and cancer – of course, the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine combines my two favorite topics. Here’s one thing that has become clear to me – there are no magical cancer prevention schemes. You are not going to prevent any of the 200 different cancers by drinking a banana-kale-quinoa smoothie every day. The best ways to prevent cancer are to quit smoking, stay out of the sun, keep active and thin, get your cancer-preventing vaccines, and following just a few more recommendations.
The benefits of the vaccine are often overlooked as a result of two possible factors – first, there’s a disconnect between personal activities today and cancer that could be diagnosed 20-30 years from now; and second, people think that there are significant dangers from the vaccine which are promulgated by the anti-vaccine religion.
It’s frustrating and difficult to explain Gardasil’s safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about the safety and long-term efficacy of the vaccine. That’s why I have written nearly 200 articles about Gardasil safety and efficacy, along with debunking some ridiculous myths about the cancer-preventing vaccine. This article serves to be a quick source with links to most of those 200 articles.
And if you read nothing else in this review of Gardasil, read the section entitled “Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer” – that will link you to two quick to read articles that summarize the best evidence in support of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
Here we go again – a pseudoscience website claims that a former Merck scientist does not vaccinate his kids because of random reasons. But before you perk up and think that this is a real, we should start with “Merck scientist.” Yeah, those scare quotes have meaning.
If you have any interest in HPV vaccines, you’ve probably heard about Diane Harper, who the anti-vaccine religion claims was a “lead Gardasil researcher” who came out against the vaccine. Many of us were never convinced that she was really anti-vaccine, although she seemed to have vacillating views on the HPV vaccine depending on a variety of random factors, including who was feting her at any particular point in time.
Dr. Harper was a frustrating character in the conversations about the HPV vaccine. Although some (but certainly not all) of her comments about the vaccine could be construed as an anti-HPV vaccine, her publications, and many other public comments, seemed to clearly show that she was a supporter of the vaccine.
A few writers in the scientific skeptic blogosphere have contacted her, either in person or through interviews, and most have come away with the impression that she was solidly in support of the vaccine. However, and I have no evidence of this whatsoever, she always seemed to be biased against Gardasil, manufactured by Merck, so maybe she had some personal vendetta. We will probably never know, I suppose.
About 4 years ago, I wrote about a new anti-Gardasil name being foisted upon the internet. His name is Bernard Dalbergue, a French physician who may or may not have had some role with Gardasil development. Or manufacturing. Or sales.
Well, he had something to do with something with regards the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine. He’s another false authority pushed by the anti-Gardasil religion, a particularly nasty sect of the anti-vaccine religion. They bring out these individuals because the anti-vaccine troupe lacks the evidence to support their specious and deceptive claims about Gardasil.
I am absolutely convinced that of all the vaccines on the market, the anti-vaccine radicals hate the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine more than any other. Nearly every day, I see article after article in pseudoscientific websites that make unfounded claims and outright misinformation about Gardasil, including one that crossed my path today.
In fact, there is robust scientific evidence, gathered from huge case control studies, that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is incredibly safe, and may be one of the safest vaccines on the market. But we all know what the anti-vaccine folks think of scientific facts – they ignore them unless it supports their preordained conclusions.
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.
As I’ve written before, there are precious few ways to prevent cancer. But one of the best cancer prevention strategies is the HPV vaccine, which can prevent numerous cancers such as cervical, oral, penile and anal, all serious, and all dangerous. Maybe we should just rename Gardasil to “HPV cancer vaccine,” which could make everyone sit up and notice.
The HPV vaccination rate remains depressingly low in the USA. According to recent research, 39.7% of adolescent girls aged 13-17 received all three doses of the vaccine in 2014 up from 37.6% in 2013. HPV vaccination rates among teen boys are much lower than for girls, 21.6% in 2014 up from 13.4% in 2013.
There are probably a lot of reasons for the low HPV cancer vaccine uptake rate, so I thought I’d go through the most “popular” ones, debunking them one by one.
Hopefully, the reader can use this article as a checklist of the tropes and myths of the anti-Gardasil crowd with quick answers to them. Maybe you’ll convince one person to get their son or daughter vaccinated against HPV related cancers.
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?
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.
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™.