Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy

Gardasil safety and efficacy

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 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 safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about 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.

Continue reading “Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy”

HPV vaccine facts – refuting RFK Jr’s false and unscientific claims – Part 2

HPV vaccine facts

Recently,  I wrote a post about Robert F Kennedy Jr’s 25 false claims that stood against HPV vaccine facts and science – because that’s what the anti-vaccine crowd does well. 

As I mentioned, 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.”

Because there were 25 lies in RFK Jr’s article, I just covered the first 12 in a previous post. Now I will take on the remaining 13 by reiterating HPV vaccine facts. Continue reading “HPV vaccine facts – refuting RFK Jr’s false and unscientific claims – Part 2”

Gardasil vaccine – RFK Jr makes false and unscientific claims – Part 1

gardasil vaccine

Recently, Robert F Kennedy Jr has been making numerous false claims about the Gardasil 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.”

Now, he has decided to go on the attack against the HPV vaccine, providing the world with “25 reasons to avoid the Gardasil vaccine.” For some unknown reason, he’d rather pass along “dangerous misinformation” about vaccines than actually focus on the health and lives of children. I don’t understand his motivation, but it sickens me.

As a result, I must take the time to respond to his 25 lies about the Gardasil vaccine. This article will cover the first 12 lies – the remaining 13 will be discussed in a few days. Continue reading “Gardasil vaccine – RFK Jr makes false and unscientific claims – Part 1”

HPV prevalence drops by 86% since introduction of vaccine

hpv prevalence

Ten years after the introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in the USA in 2006, HPV prevalence has dropped significantly in a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is very encouraging research that further strengthens the evidence behind the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.

One of the tropes pushed by the anti-vaccine religion is that we don’t know if the vaccine actually will prevent an HPV infection after 10 years. Well, now we know. 

Let’s take a look at the study on HPV prevalence in the USA. Continue reading “HPV prevalence drops by 86% since introduction of vaccine”

Vaccines cause autism debate – it only exists in the minds of vaccine deniers

vaccines cause autism debate

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last month, New England pediatrician Daniel Summers effectively wrote that the so-called vaccines cause autism debate was over. He wrote, “not merely one study or two, but study after study after study confirms that vaccines are safe and that there is no connection with autism.”

In fact, there are 100s of studies, many of them with a huge number of data points, that have shown no correlation, let alone causation, between vaccines and autism. None.

Other than stating that I objectively support Dr. Summers’ statements and conclusions, I don’t have much else to say. But you and I know that an op-ed piece by a real doctor will be noticed by someone in the vaccine denier world, and they will pull out every single trope, myth, and conspiracy theory to claim that Dr. Summers is wrong and that there really is a “vaccines cause autism debate.”

I came across an article by Jeremy R Hammond in the right wing alternative news website, Personal Liberty, which attacked Dr. Summers with those aforementioned tropes, myths, and conspiracy theories. The same ones you’d see from any of your standard, run-of-the-mill vaccine denier.

Let’s take a look at Hammond’s article. Generally, I can only get through about half of an anti-vaccine article when I have to stop because I’m banging my head against the desk too much. I need to protect the neurons in my brain from further damage. But I will try to persevere in the name of science.

Continue reading “Vaccines cause autism debate – it only exists in the minds of vaccine deniers”

Japanese HPV vaccine study – new data destroys anti-vaxxer tropes

Japanese HPV vaccine

If you have been paying attention to the pages about the Japanese HPV vaccine, you would know about some controversies there. The whole experience there is the basis of numerous vaccine denier memes and tropes that have always been inaccurate. Now we have some scientific data that makes some of those lies quite funny.

Let’s take a look at this new data. Continue reading “Japanese HPV vaccine study – new data destroys anti-vaxxer tropes”

Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine

christopher bunch

On 14 August 2018, fourteen-year-old Christopher Bunch died from acute disseminated encephalomyletis (ADEM), leaving his loving, devoted family reeling. The family blamed his death on the HPV vaccine that Christopher received, and they were quickly surrounded and courted by anti-vaccine activists.

My heart goes out to Christopher’s family. I followed the case since he was in the hospital, hoping and praying with them for a good outcome, and I feel their heartbreak. I was also deeply impressed by their initial reaction, which was to create a positive legacy for Christopher, making him visible and famous.

I would rather not write about this, which is why this post is so long after the fact. But Christopher’s death is since being used to try and scare people away from HPV vaccines or vaccines generally, putting others at risk of cancer and death. With very little basis: the timing and the epidemiological evidence do not support a link between Christopher’s death and HPV vaccines. Christopher Bunch deserves a better legacy than that. Continue reading “Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine”

HPV vaccine fear mongering in an anti-vax book – a critical review

hpv vaccine

In 2018, “The HPV Vaccine On Trial: Seeking Justice For A Generation Betrayed”, was published. It was written by attorneys Kim Mack Rosenberg and Mary Holland, and Eileen Iorio described as a “health coach.”

As the title suggests, the book concluded that the HPV vaccine (from the first vaccine, licensed in the U.S. in 2006) was a betrayal, because it was unjustified, harmful, and with no health benefits. As the authors’ first chapter lays out, their opinion is in tension with statements from health authorities and cancer authorities worldwide – and goes against a large amount of data.

It is no exaggeration to say that the book is ill-founded, misleading, and anti-vaccine to the core. HPV vaccines have been especially signaled out by anti-vaccine activists since their creation. This book draws on anti-vaccine claims made over the years, including most of the older anti-vaccine tropes (claims, by the way, that are not always consistent with each other – for example, is the problem aluminum in vaccines, or a novel and different adjuvant?) and offering new (and ill-founded – see the discussion of chapter 8 below) ones.

To explain the problems with it, three of us divided the subjects in the book, and are reviewing it as a team. A review by Dan Kegel, who has an undergraduate degree in biology from Caltech and maintains a comprehensive site with the data on HPV and HPV vaccines, is found here. A review of the chapters on autoimmunity, aluminum, and a few more by John Kelly, a career biochemist, and molecular biologist and a survivor of HPV+ cancer, will be added later.

The book has four parts. I will not cover all of it, out of concern of making this review overly long. But I will raise some of the highlights. I am putting chapter 2 and 15 aside to address in my discussion below of the general use of anecdotes. Continue reading “HPV vaccine fear mongering in an anti-vax book – a critical review”

Preventing cervical cancer – HPV vaccine uptake increases in Ireland

preventing cervical cancer

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Emma Mhic Mhathúna was a 37-year-old Irish mother of five who died in October 2018 from cervical cancer – an easily diagnosed and treated cancer if discovered early. She died because of a pap smear scandal in Ireland that led her to receive a false negative on her two pap smear tests in 2016. As a result of this scandal, HPV vaccine uptake has increased for preventing cervical cancer. Continue reading “Preventing cervical cancer – HPV vaccine uptake increases in Ireland”

Getting the adult HPV vaccine – Dorit Rubinstein Reiss’ story

adult-hpv-vaccine

On 5 October 2018, the FDA expanded the licensing Gardasil 9 – currently the only HPV vaccine marketed in the United States – to men and women up to the age of 45. If up till now getting the adult HPV vaccine was not a realistic option for me, now it was. But at this point, the vaccine is not yet recommended for my age group – the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has not made any additional recommendations after licensing. Which raised the question: should I get it?

On one hand, I am in a committed monogamous relationship. I am a married mother of two young children, I have no plans of changing partners, and I’ve already probably been exposed to anything my husband had. I have never had an abnormal pap smear. That means that I am likely pretty low risk for getting a new HPV infection and that I have cleared any I ever had (almost all sexually active people in the United States have had HPV). If you are in a relationship, including marriage, and if you had children, you likely had sex at some point.

So the benefits of the adult HPV vaccine for me are low – but not non-existent. You never know what will happen, and while I hope to stay with my partner forever, bad things can happen – like death or sexual assault. One hopes for the best, but it’s reasonable to also plan for the worst (for example, while we do not plan to die, we have a will written out with provisions for caring for our kids if we do) – and the vaccine is age-limited. There are nine cancer-causing HPV strains in the vaccine, and I am fairly certain that I have not been exposed to all of them. 

The risks of the adult HPV vaccine are extremely minor. I’m likely to get a sore arm, may get other mild reaction like fever, and have a theoretical reaction of an allergic reaction (or fainting, though not being a teen, I think that’s unlikely). Studies pretty much rule out other risks.

In spite of anti-vaccine claims, getting the vaccine after being exposed to HPV does not increase your risk of cancer (but the vaccine won’t protect you against strains you were already exposed to).

So the adult HPV vaccine has low benefits but minuscule risks, at least for me. Still, it seemed to me to make sense to go for it, if possible. Especially because I speak up about HPV vaccines and encourage others to go for them, I thought it’s fair to get them myself, too. Show I mean it when I say that they are safe. 

To be sure, I emailed Dr. Paul Offit, who I trust completely on vaccines. He recommended going for it. 

I did not know, however, if my provider will give me the vaccine or if my healthcare insurance will cover it at my age (most health insurance in the USA does cover all vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, for children). In spite of what anti-vaccine people believe, I do not have secret ties to pharma or special access to vaccines. 

So I emailed my doctor:

Dear Dr. X,

Since the FDA approved HPV vaccines for people up to 45, I would like to get the vaccine, if possible.

I emailed Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert,  for his opinion, and he recommended getting it.

Can you help me do that?

Best,
Dorit.

My doctor said: “Sure, let me see what our protocol is here and get back to you.”

After I did not hear back for over a week, I emailed again. My doctor answered:

Sorry that I could not repond in a timely manner.
I had forwarded your request to Dr. Y [details omitted to preserve my providers’ – and my own – privacy] but did not hear from them. I have ordered the shots. You can call your … health plan to see if it will be covered just to be sure.

You can go to ### injection clinic Mon-Fri 9am-12pm, 1:30-4:30 pm for the shot (ordered already).

Okay. All that was left was to actually get the vaccine. I wanted a picture – so I asked my eight-year-old son if he will act as photographer and come with me. He agreed. We went together, waited, and went in. I told him to take a lot of pictures all through, and he did. 

Dorit adult HPV vaccine

The nurse asked if I was feeling okay, if I ever had a reaction to a vaccine, if I was allergic to latex or anything else I knew of (yes, no, no). She explained what the shot was, and gave me the Vaccine Information Statement. We also wrote out the schedule for the next two doses. Then she cleaned the area, told me to take a deep breath and let it out, and done. I barely felt the needle. 

She told me my arm will hurt for a day or two. It didn’t, actually. Not complaining. I’m okay with less pain. But I would have been okay (not happy, but okay) with a sore arm for a few days, too. 

My son did a great job taking a lot of pictures. I posted several of those pictures on Facebook and Twitter, because, again, I think it’s important to make it clear I stand behind what I say on HPV vaccines specifically, and vaccines generally. 

So that’s my adult HPV vaccine story. One dose down, two to go. Maybe my arm will hurt next time.