Katie Couric doubles down on the Gardasil false balance

katie-couric-hpv

Revised 10 December 2013.

If you weren’t aware, on 4 December 2013, Katie Couric, a fairly popular USA-based journalist with her own eponymous TV talk show, Katie, did a report about Gardasil (formally known as the HPV quadrivalent vaccine and also called Silgard in Europe). Essentially, Couric interviewed several individuals who claim, without any evidence (and lacking any clue about statistical analysis) that Gardasil harmed their children. Couric gave about a minute of time to ONE physician to explain the safety and effectiveness of Gardasil, as opposed to the heartbreaking, but ultimately irrelevant, stories from parents who needed to blame something for what had happened, and chose Gardasil. As opposed to depression, diet soda, bottled water, air pollution, bad TV shows, or that fake butter that the movie theaters use.

As I wrote before, Gardasil is incredibly safe, as shown in massive and well-designed epidemiological studies. It prevents HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, a sexually transmitted disease. And in case you think it’s just some benign virus, HPV is directly responsible for cervical cancer, anal cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer and penile cancer. These are all deadly, disfiguring, and potentially preventable cancers through the use of HPV vaccines.

In other words, Couric, in the ultimate example of false balance–Couric believed that both sides of a scientific “debate” are equivalent in quality of opinion and evidence. But rarely is this true, especially in scientific principles that have been well-studied and supported by a massive amount of evidence. The safety and efficacy of vaccines is supported by the vast consensus of real science. The antivaccination side has no evidence, so it must rely upon logical fallacies and cherry picked data, and lack any real, world-class contingent of scientists who have stepped up to change the consensus with real evidence. Continue reading “Katie Couric doubles down on the Gardasil false balance”

The beginning of the end of Gardasil–probably not

 

Safe. Prevents cancer.
Safe. Prevents cancer.

More fear mongering from the antivaccination forces, this time claiming that “mainstream news media is widely reporting today that a French teenager has filed a lawsuit against French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Pasteur, and France’s health regulators, over side-effects that were caused by the Gardasil HPV vaccine.” The plaintiff is claiming that the vaccine induced multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease that results from inflammation of neurons. The best available evidence is that MS is caused by a virus, which someday will be prevented with a vaccine!

Formally known as the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe) is a vaccine that prevents infection by the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease. The vaccine specifically targets subtypes 16 and 18, that cause not only approximately 70% of cervical cancers, but they also cause most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. It also targets HPV6 and HPV11, which account for approximately 90% of external genital warts. The viruses are generally passed through genital contact, almost always as a result of vaginal, oral and anal sex. 

Let’s be clear here. Gardasil prevents cancers–serious, life threatening cancers.

Furthermore, the HPV quadrivalent vaccine has been shown to be extraordinarily safe in two different and large epidemiological studies, one with over 700,000 doses and the other with over 350,000 doses. The relative safety of the HPV vaccine is not in question except by those who engage in logical fallacies and anecdotes. The size of these two studies were so large, so impressive, that they would have uncovered extremely rare events, and there were none.

We  have discussed this issue before. Teenagers are at risk of many chronic diseases that are coincidental to vaccines. For example, the rate for MS in some populations in Europe is close to 200 per 100,000. Without any substantial and incontrovertible evidence that the HPV vaccine is linked to MS, and with substantial evidence that MS is caused by viruses and is fairly prevalent in Europe, one can only conclude scientifically that this child had a coincidental MS attack. That is sad, and I wish we could have prevented the disease, and someday we might–but blaming Gardasil is simply irresponsible, since we have evidence it saves lives

So, let’s debunk some of the crazy points made by the fear-mongering anti-Gardasil article:

  1. No, we have no evidence that Gardasil caused MS. In fact, we have evidence otherwise, since the background rate of MS in Europe is substantial.
  2. VAERS data (yes, the article decided to use VAERS) is merely observational. It is not controlled, it does not show causality, and it is abused by those who fail to understand the scientific and epidemiological value of the data.
  3. A lawsuit certainly does not imply causality, especially since nothing has been adjudicated so far. And even if the French legal system finds for the plaintiff, it does not provide evidence of causality. Courts are terrible evaluators of scientific data.
  4. Japan did not stop using Gardasil vaccine. The Japanese Health Ministry, under pressure from the anti-science crowd, withdrew its recommendation for the vaccine based on adverse events that were actually BELOW the rates of those same events in the general population. In other words, they failed to take any epidemiology courses.
  5. Oh, and the author blames Bill Gates in some complicated, nonsensical conspiracy theory about killing girls with HPV vaccines. It’s clear that for the vaccine deniers, since they don’t have real scientific evidence, they need to blame Bill Gates. And blame him again if that doesn’t work

Therefore, the HPV vaccine is safe, based on over 1 million doses in controlled studies. HPV vaccine prevents the virus that causes some serious, deadly cancers. Multiple sclerosis is probably not caused by the HPV vaccine (or any vaccine to be factual). Multiple sclerosis is probably caused by a virus that one day will be prevented by a vaccine developed by real scientists (and if I’m still writing then, rest assured the vaccine deniers will risk their children contracting MS to whine nonsensically about that new vaccine). 

Gardasil saves lives. And I’ve shown that scientific fact based on solid scientific, published evidence.

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

Key citations:

Why we vaccinate – reduction in HPV incidence in UK

HPV incidence

The HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe) prevents infection by the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease. The vaccine specifically targets subtypes 16 and 18, that cause not only 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. It also targets HPV6 and HPV11, which account for approximately 90% of external genital warts. The viruses are generally passed through genital contact, almost always as a result of vaginal, oral and anal sex.

The HPV vaccine has been shown to be extraordinarily safe in two different and large epidemiological studies, one with over 700,000 doses and the other with over 350,000 doses. The absolute safety of the HPV vaccine is not in question except by those who engage in logical fallacies and anecdote.

In a recent study published in the journal Vaccine, researchers examined the HPV 16/18 infection rate in a randomized group of 4,178 young women, aged 16-24 years who were undergoing screening in community health services in the United Kingdom.

One of the key results was that in the group of 16-18 years, where the HPV infection rate dropped from 17.6% in a survey done prior to the introduction of the vaccine down to 6.6% post-vaccination. This group also showed the highest HPV immunization coverage, about 65%.

The authors concluded that:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]These findings are the first indication that the national HPV immunisation programme is successfully preventing HPV 16/18 infection in sexually active young women in England. The reductions seen suggest, for the estimated coverage, high vaccine effectiveness and some herd-protection benefits.[/infobox]

These results mirror a study which established the substantial and dramatic drop in HPV infections after the release of the HPV vaccine in the United States. We can only conclude that the HPV vaccines caused a significant reduction in HPV incidence in UK and the USA. The HPV vaccine is effective.

The HPV vaccine is safe. The HPV vaccine prevents the HPV infection. And preventing HPV infections stop 60-95% of some serious and dangerous cancers and other annoyances such as penis pimples. Why is the decision to vaccinate with Gardasil even under discussion? Once again, here is scientific evidence that a vaccine saves lives.

Key citations:

 

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:

Anti-vaccine lunacy–more lies about Gardasil

One of the hallmarks of pseudoscience is an over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation of a hypothesis. The antivaccine crowd are well-known for this particular violation of the scientific method. As discussed previously, science works on refutation–creating experiments that might actually disprove a hypothesis as a method to develop evidence in support of it. The anti-vaccination crowd actually hypothesizes (but not in a scientific sense) that a vaccine or set of vaccines was the causal factor in some side effect (autism, death, or whatever else), then they should establish an experiment (double-blinded of course) that would refute that hypothesis. If at some point, the data cannot refute it, then the anti-vaccinationists would have supporting data for their particular supposition. 

But instead of actually performing experiments (which cost money, which may show that they are wrong, or which might not be ethical), they resort to mining data to prove their point. Data mining is dangerous, because confirmation bias, that is, finding information or data that supports a belief while ignoring all other data that does not, makes the data suspect or even useless.

So, in that vein, the anti-vaccinationists often mine data from any database they can find, such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS),  which is a program for vaccine safety, managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS functions as a post-marketing safety surveillance program (similar to other programs for almost every regulated medical device and pharmaceutical) which collects information about adverse events (whether related or unrelated to the vaccine) that occur after administration of vaccines.

VAERS has numerous limitations, including lack of scientifically designed questions, unverified reports, underreporting, inconsistent data quality, and absence of an unvaccinated control group. VAERS is basically a collector of information, but has limited value in making conclusions since it does not provide information that is obtained in a controlled manner.  However, it does have some usefulness, in that certain trends may be spotted given enough time and data points. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine lunacy–more lies about Gardasil”

The importance of the HPV vaccine to gay men

cover-your-buttMany of us who provide scientific information about HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), tend to focus on its effects on preventing cancers in women, so articles are inclined to pay attention to vaccinating teenage girls rather than boys. But, if you carefully analyze the disease, human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease, its subtypes 16 and 18 not only cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, but 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. 

These HPV-related cancers can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection itself, either through never having genital contact with an infected person (and since about 79 million adult Americans are infected with the virus, that’s going to be difficult) or the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is a vitally important part of the war against HPV, it prevents the transmission of certain types (pdf) of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18. These subtypes of HPV are most often implicated in these cancers. Continue reading “The importance of the HPV vaccine to gay men”

HPV vaccinations lagging despite strong safety and effectiveness

hpvThe CDC recently reported that only about half of US teenager girls have received the safe and effective quadrivalent HPV vaccine (HPV4), a disappointing level of vaccine uptake. Moreover, this rate hasn’t changed over the past three years, despite significant efforts to increase the awareness and effectiveness of the vaccine amongst teenagers. Even worse news in this report is that only about one-third of teenage girls have been fully immunized with all three doses.

HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), is marketed by Merck & Co., usually for vaccination of teenage girls (with an increasing number of boys). The vaccine prevents the transmission of certain types (pdf) of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18. 

HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and caused most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. These cancers, mostly related to HPV, can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection from ever happening, which usually happens through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex.

HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. Approximately 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20′s, are infected with HPV, and about 14 million people become infected each year in the USA. Continue reading “HPV vaccinations lagging despite strong safety and effectiveness”

Study shows HPV vaccine lowers HPV infection risk in teen girls

conservative-HPV-vaccineHPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), is marketed by Merck, usually for vaccination of teenage girls (with an increasing number of boys). The vaccine prevents the transmission of certain types (pdf) of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and caused most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. These cancers, mostly related to HPV, can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection from ever happening, which usually happens through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. Approximately 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20’s, are infected with HPV, and about 14 million people become infected each year in the USA. Continue reading “Study shows HPV vaccine lowers HPV infection risk in teen girls”

Japan Health Ministry pulls recommendation for HPV vaccination

The comments have been closed for this article. Please comment at the revised article.

I was going to put some snarky comment in the title like, “but wait, what about the statistics.” Because we know that this isn’t a good decision, and that the vaccine deniers will be all over it like MrAndy Wakefield’s fraudulent and retracted study claiming that vaccines cause autism. But let’s move on to what happened.

According to a English newspaper in Japan,

The health ministry decided June 14 to withdraw its recommendation for a vaccination to protect girls against cervical cancer after hundreds complained about possible side effects, including long-term pain and numbness.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is not suspending the use of the vaccination, but it has instructed local governments not to promote the use of the medicine while studies are conducted on the matter.

So far, an estimated 3.28 million people have received the vaccination. However, 1,968 cases of possible side effects, including body pain, have been reported.

The ministry’s task force discussed 43 of those cases. However, a cause-and-effect relationship between the vaccination and the pain and numbness could not be established, so the task force members called for further studies by the ministry.

The ministry’s investigation is expected to take several months. It will then decide whether to reinstate or continue to withhold its recommendation for the vaccination.

So, the health ministry is going to withhold recommendation of the HPV vaccination because they notice 43 cases for which they couldn’t establish a causal relationship to the vaccine. In other words, 0.0013% of cases, a number so small that it’s pretty close to impossible to affix any statistical significance to it. In fact, random background “noise” (that is that some whole body pain could be expected in any random sampling of vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals) of this type of observation is as plausible as correlation (let alone causation) to the vaccine. In fact, the Health Ministry failed to provide us with data concerning the level of these side effects in the general population. Nor how soon after vaccination. Nor anything potentially useful in a scientific analysis.

What’s worse is that, according to the same article, about 2700 women in Japan die every year from HPV related cancers. So, because of complaints from the antivaccination lunatics in Japan (didn’t know they had any, but I shouldn’t be surprised), and bad statistics (43 potential cases of “body pain” out of 3,280,000 vaccinations), the Health Ministry stops recommending the vaccine. Exactly what were these people thinking?

Finally, let’s be clear here. The vaccine hasn’t been pulled from the market nor has it been outlawed; teenagers can still get the vaccine. And this was a very unusual move, since only 3 years ago, Japan’s parliament added the HPV vaccine to the mandatory schedule. Hopefully, this committee will look at the numbers from a statistical and scientific point of view and fix this stupidity.

By the way, the World Health Organization still recommends the HPV vaccine.  Because the HPV vaccine saves lives by preventing future cervical cancers.

 

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Key citations:

Vaccines saves lives–HPV scientific evidence part 2

 

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

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus from the papillomavirus family that is capable of infecting humans. Like all papillomaviruses, HPVs establish productive infections only in keratinocytes of the skin or mucous membranes, making it easily transmitted sexually or through other intimate contact. While the majority of the known types of HPV cause no symptoms in most people, some types can cause warts (verrucae)HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced analvulvarvaginal, and penile cancers. The HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), is marketed by Merck. The vaccine prevents the transmission of certain types of HPV, specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Vaccines saves lives–HPV scientific evidence part 2”