HPV vaccines, cervical cancer and conspiracy theories…

Right, thanks to a friend I had my attention drawn to this article http://www.feelguide.com/2013/07/16/lead-developer-of-hpv-vaccines-comes-clean-warns-parents-young-girls-its-all-a-giant-deadly-scam/

I fully intend to take apart the dubious claims made by the article and illuminate where those claims are grounded in plain ignorance. Regarding the report the report quotes, which follows below…

“Dr. Harper explained in her presentation that the cervical cancer risk in the U.S. is already extremely low, and that vaccinations are unlikely to have any effect upon the rate of cervical cancer in the United States.  In fact, 70% of all HPV infections resolve themselves without treatment in a year, and the number rises to well over 90% in two years.  Harper also mentioned the safety angle.  All trials of the vaccines were done on children aged 15 and above, despite them currently being marketed for 9-year-olds.  So far, 15,037 girls have reported adverse side effects from Gardasil™ alone to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and this number only reflects parents who underwent the hurdles required for reporting adverse reactions.  At the time of writing, 44 girls are officially known to have died from these vaccines.  The reported side effects include Guillian Barré Syndrome (paralysis lasting for years, or permanently — sometimes eventually causing suffocation), lupus, seizures, blood clots, and brain inflammation.  Parents are usually not made aware of these risks.  Dr. Harper, the vaccine developer, claimed that she was speaking out, so that she might finally be able to sleep at night.  ’About eight in every ten women who have been sexually active will have HPV at some stage of their life,’ Harper says.  ’Normally there are no symptoms, and in 98 per cent of cases it clears itself.  But in those cases where it doesn’t, and isn’t treated, it can lead to pre-cancerous cells which may develop into cervical cancer”

 

The aforementioned bits are by themselves accurate; HPV infections are exceedingly common and in most cases they resolve by themselves, where the article takes those facts and mangles them up while taking up cudgels against the vaccine and being utterly clueless is in the interpretation that follows.

 

“Although these two vaccines are marketed as protection against cervical cancer, this claim is purely hypothetical.  Studies have proven “there is no demonstrated relationship between the condition being vaccinated for and the rare cancers that the vaccine might prevent, but it is marketed to do that nonetheless.  In fact, there is no actual evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer.  From the manufacturers own admissions, the vaccine only works on 4 strains out of 40 for a specific venereal disease that dies on its own in a relatively short period, so the chance of it actually helping an individual is about about the same as the chance of her being struck by a meteorite.””

Time to take a look at the individual claims and to look at the evidence.

[1] Although these two vaccines are marketed as protection against cervical cancer, this claim is purely hypothetical.  Studies have proven “there is no demonstrated relationship between the condition being vaccinated for and the rare cancers that the vaccine might prevent, but it is marketed to do that nonetheless.  In fact, there is no actual evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer.

Bollocks – there is evidence to show that it eliminates HPV infection and the consequent integration that is dependent on HPV infection to happen. The evidence associating HPV with cervical cancer, and HPV integration with cervical cancer, is extremely strong. All that is required is evidence that it can stop HPV infections, and that will cut cervical cancer incidence greatly. There is indeed very good evidence from a large trial showing that a vaccine that targets HPV16 can cut down HPV infection significantly AND also reduce the occurrence of precancerous HPV-associated lesions when they do happen. So the assertion that there is no evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer is completely turgid wibble.

Cervical cancers aren’t “rare” because HPV infection is so common, and the perceived rarity of cervical cancer in the United States referred to in the article is the result of a very good screening programme; women get their cervix screened for precancerous lesions regularly and precancerous lesions are burnt or frozen away, preventing tumour progression. Globally, cervical cancer is, after breast adenocarcinoma, the leading cause of cancer deaths in women (ref – http://publications.cancerresearchuk.org/downloads/Product/CS_FS_WORLD_A4.pdf )

I can’t see how you can stop HPV infections and not stop cervical cancer from developing, unless you decide to irradiate women’s cervixes to compensate for the lack of mutational sources other than HPV.

The reference to demonstrate that HPV is strongly associated with cervical cancer is here ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10451482 ). The figure is something like 98-99%, which, given how many people suffer and die from it, is massive.

From the manufacturers own admissions, the vaccine only works on 4 strains out of 40 for a specific venereal disease .

 

Elementary mistake – that there are 40 strains of HPV doesn’t mean that all of them occur at similar frequencies or that they are equally capable of causing cancers. Indeed, the five strains covered by one of the two available HPV vaccines account for 80% of the global cervical cancer burden, i.e, a very.large.number).

 

so the chance of it actually helping an individual is about about the same as the chance of her being struck by a meteorite.

More utter rubbish and sensationalistic journalistic nonsense. The chance of it actually helping an individual is the same as the chance someone will get cervical cancer from HPV infection, and the number of people who have to deal with cervical cancer is probably several orders of magnitude greater than the number of people being struck by meteorites.

Indeed, the article totally does not talk about HPV induced head and neck cancers ( http://www.nature.com/news/hpv-sex-cancer-and-a-virus-1.14194 ), which are associated with significant mortality and morbidity, and for which screening programmes do not exist. In other words, I’d always expect more due diligence from anyone writing about topics of interest for the general public who may be mislead by utterly dodgy arguments like the ones I’ve just quoted.

</rant>.

 

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