The health column “Why worry about HPV?” (May 3, 2013) widely missed the mark. The article lacked scientific rigor while adding to Merck’s fear-mongering advertising campaign that girls “Be One Less.” Indeed, Merck’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil received an advertising award for creating a “market out of thin air.”
HPV is a virus that infects most within a few years of becoming sexually active. Importantly, 90 percent of women infected with HPV will clear the virus on their own within two years of infection. Of the 10 percent that don’t clear the infection, it takes another three years for 5 percent to progress to pre-cancerous lesions and a further five years for those to progress to invasive cancer. Cervical cancer development is a lengthy process with ample time and safe treatment when necessary.
Annual Pap smears have been routine for most women for decades. Pap smears have reduced cervical cancer in the developed world by 70 percent in the past few decades to such an extent that there are as many pedestrian deaths in the U.S. annually as there are cervical cancer deaths, with half of those occurring in women who have never had a Pap smear. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has stated that “this HPV vaccine costs hundreds of dollars for something that most of the recipients do not even need protection against.” Equally important, Pap smears carry zero risk to the recipient. While Coe Smith writes that HPV vaccine “is very well-tolerated,” there have been over 23,000 adverse reactions reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, including 10,000 emergency-room visits and 85 deaths in the U.S. after HPV vaccines. These numbers likely understate true adverse reactions, as only a fraction of adverse reactions to all medications are reported, in some cases as few as 1 percent. While the CDC claims that all these reactions are a coincidence, one has to wonder what exactly caused 10,000 emergency-room visits and 85 deaths in otherwise healthy young women.
This point is driven home by the fact that HPV vaccine fragments have been found in the brains of two young women who died months after HPV vaccination with inflammatory symptoms indicative of a fatal autoimmune response. Serious adverse reactions related to HPV vaccination include death, convulsions, paralysis, Guillain–Barré syndrome, transverse myelitis, facial palsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and cervical cancers.
Amazingly, federal law assures vaccine makers bear zero liability when their vaccines cause harm. Merck used an aluminum-containing placebo in its clinical trials, thereby masking the true side-effect profile. Aluminum on its own is known to cause neurological and inflammatory reactions, so it is no surprise that the vaccine and placebo shared the same side effects. Interestingly, in Merck’s clinical trials the number of girls between ages 9 and 26 who reported serious adverse reactions to Gardasil indicative of an autoimmune disorder during pre-licensure trials was 245, compared with 218 girls in the “control” group. According to the authors of one study, “at best, Gardasil was shown to be as safe as its potentially neuro-immunotoxic constituent aluminum.”
HPV vaccines are recommended for girls (and boys) 9 to 26, despite being studied on fewer than 1,200 girls under age 16. HPV-vaccine-induced “immunity” is not permanent and wanes within five years, meaning children will have been exposed to adverse effects from the vaccine with zero benefit before becoming sexually active.
Cervical cancer is a rare disease in the developed world with mortality rates several times lower than reported serious adverse reactions to the vaccines. It is no wonder most parents have rejected HPV vaccinations.
Leslie Manookian is one of the creators of the documentary film “The Greater Good.” She lives in Ketchum.