When you question a vaccine, whether as a parent, researcher, doctor or writer, you automatically get put in the “crazy” camp. And it doesn’t help when there are people out there misreporting facts and misattributing information.
I’m quite sure I don’t get everything right, but if I don’t, it’s not for want of fact-checking to the very best of my ability. So it made me nuts watching an error-ridden article mushroom across the web last week. The story was about how the feds have concluded that Gardasil causes 400 percent more deaths than the meningococcal vaccine Menactra, and it immediately rang alarm bells for anyone who tries to keep up properly with the unfolding Gardasil side-effects story.
Forensic tracking (not that hard; it was quoted as the entire source for the article) took me back to a New Zealand pro-life blog’s mistake. Back in March, familylifenz posted, “A new report, issued in February, by the centralized federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System in the United States, has compared the anti-HPV vaccine Garasil, with the Menactra (meningococcal) vaccine, and it has found that Gardasil is associated with a far high rate of serious adverse effects than Menactra is.”
One staffer for a natural health site somewhat belatedly picked up on this and apparently followed the provided link back to the report itself for the 400 percent statistic but didn’t notice that it was, in fact, issued by the National Vaccine Information Center, not VAERS. The NVIC isn’t a federal agency, it’s an organization founded by parents whose children have been damaged by vaccines.
The NVIC’s very useful report analyzed data about Menactra and Gardasil from the VAERS system and made some recommendations to the CDC, the FDA, and Congress. It did indeed note that Gardasil was associated with four times as many deaths (and with even greater increases in other adverse events) as Menactra. To say, however, that “a federal report” came to that conclusion, and that researchers for VAERS had commented on the unusually high death rate, is—well, flat-out wrong.
No beef with the NVIC. I thought the report was interesting and blogged about it back when they issued it.
“I am all about the Gardasil vs. Menactra stat as it lives in my house,” wrote one reader to me just yesterday. “I have three kids who all had doctor appointments last June 16, 2008. All three got Menactra; only Nora got Gardasil too, and she was the only one to end up in the ER 5 days later. And again 20 days after her second shot.” Her daughter has been on anti-seizure medication ever since; and she's far from the only girl who has suffered seizure problems after getting the vaccine.
There are obvious pitfalls to the report on the passive VAERS system, of course, as vaccine side-effects are both under-reported and over-reported, and any scientist will quickly point out that correlation doesn’t equal causality. And the CDC isn’t one whit alarmed by the numbers of Gardasil-related adverse events because—even at four or more times the rate of those related to Menactra—in the context of multiple millions of doses given, they’re statistically insignificant (unless you’re a victim or the parent of one, naturally) and it’s statistics that ring alarm bells.
I don’t much like Gardasil. To me it seems rather ineffective, likely to cause replacement disease and highly suspect as a trigger for a variety of auto-immune diseases in susceptible individuals; and Merck’s marketing tactics, what with fake medical journals and doctor-discrediting “hit lists,” are frankly shocking for even the most cynical among us. Unless something happens to change my mind, I’m not getting Gardasil for either of my own daughters.
But when I see an erroneous story being picked up and regurgitated without question on multiple sites and blogs, it is just infuriating. Pretty soon it will have gained the same “everyone knows” status as that canard about how the CDC “knows” that HPV doesn’t cause cervical cancer.
It’s quite possible, even probable, that there’s real harm being done with HPV vaccines. And yet there are careless people out there are making damaged girls and their parents look like credulous crazies. Please, check facts.