The Independent is the latest newspaper to do a hack job on the safety of the HPV vaccine and stoke false concerns about safety by publishing this poorly researched and alarmist piece on Sunday written by Paul Gallagher.
Readers of this blog might notice the similarity in titles between this post and another response of mine to a newspaper botching a story on the HPV vaccine – Toronto Star claims HPV vaccine unsafe. Science Says the Toronto Star is Wrong. This is because The Independent and the Toronto Star pieces are almost identical in format. The well-known standard format for a journalist completely missing the boat on the HPV vaccine is as follows:
- Cases of girls and their mothers’ claiming harm
- Reports from data bases showing many adverse events after the vaccine but not mentioning (or understanding) that these data bases are not designed to do what the reporters claim they do – show cause and effect
- Lip service to agencies that have the data and could talk about safety but aren’t afforded the print
- No mention of the myriad of studies involving millions of doses refuting claims made in the newspaper
- Mention Japan withdrawing recommendation for the HPV vaccine, but not mentioning everything else about Japan and vaccines. What really happened was in 2013 the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare partially suspended the HPV vaccination program, however, this move was criticized widely by experts. The Japanese Pediatric Society recommends HPV vaccination. Experts have called for reform of the Japanese vaccination system, and not just because of the HPV vaccine decision. In 2013 Japan experienced a massive outbreak of rubella due to a large percentage of unvaccinated males and tragically experienced a return of congenital rubella syndrome. We shouldn’t be modeling vaccinations programs after Japan.
- An expert claiming “we just don’t know”
- Failure to interview experts who are actively studying HPV vaccine safety
- Failure to explain in a biologically plausible manner how the HPV vaccine could cause these effects
- Neglect the massive success of HPV vaccination in Australia and their excellent safety data
Like the Toronto Star the Independent’s piece is one grand exercise in confirmation bias . It follows the style of the Toronto Star article so closely the cynic on me wonders if both pieces were germinated from a press release from an anti vaccine group? Both newspaper articles were closely timed with papers questioning the safety of the vaccine and these tend to be widely circulated by anti-vaccine groups.
The Independent references a recent “paper” in the journal Clinical Rheumatology by Dr. Manual Martinez-Lavin that reaches the following conclusion:
“Case reports and small series have described the onset of CRPS, POTS, and fibromyalgia after HPV vaccination. Dysautonomia plays an important role in the pathogenesis of these overlapping syndromes. Small fiber neuropathy has been recently described in CRPS, POTS, and fibromyalgia. Pain and dysautonomia are the clinical manifestations of small fiber neuropathy and of HPV vaccination syndrome. Clinicians should be aware of the possible association between HPV vaccination and the development of the puzzling CRPS POTS and/or fibromyalgia symptoms.claims adverse events involving pain are more common after HPV vaccination.”
However, Dr. Martinez-Lavin’s paper isn’t a study it’s a discussion of his hypothesis. I know because I paid the $39.95 to read it. I wonder if the reporter did? This review paper doesn’t even include as a reference the 2013 study looking at a massive Danish and Swedish data base with almost 700,000 doses and no increase incidence of adverse autoimmune or neurological events.
Mr. Gallagher make no mention of the massive amounts of safety data that are easy to find with a couple of clicks on Google – it doesn’t even take a visit to PubMed for goodness sake!. The most recent large post marketing surveillance data shows no increased risk of autoimmune disorders among HPV vaccine recipients.
So here’s the deal, researchers have looked at autoimmune and many rare conditions and the HPV vaccine. Teenage girls do faint more after shots, a fact that has been proven by looking at the placebo arm, so data bases looking at adverse events will always have more when the primary target is teenage girls. Young women are also more likely to get autoimmune conditions, but looking at massive amounts of follow-up data no link between autoimmune disorders and the HPV vaccine has been identified.
Like Dr. Martinez-Lanvin I also treat chronic pain conditions, exclusively in women. In my 20 years of experience treating chronic pain I have seen no association between the HPV vaccine and painful conditions. But my personal experience shouldn’t matter at all because there are large prospective studies and an incredible volume of safety follow-up data, much of it not managed by drug companies. In short, there is excellent evidence based medicine.
The Toronto Star after intense pressure from the medical community and public withdrew their article on the HPV vaccine. We need to put pressure on The Independent to do the same.