The fact that her generation was part of an experiment was not lost on the astute radio presenter. An experiment that involved vaccinating all 12-13 year olds against the Human Papilloma Virus purported to cause cervical cancer. Marie was one of three young people, presenting Your Planet Needs You on 94.1FM, the Voice of the Inner East. The program boasts a demographic of late teens to young adults. This is also the cohort encouraged to take up the Gardasil vaccine offer. Marie and her co-presenters Sonja and Hadyn introduced me as their special guest inviting me to speak about my new book Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed.
They were well informed which is just as well for many of their generation are now experiencing chronic ill health after HPV vaccination. According to vigibase, the World Health Organisation’s database of adverse events the total is now over 73,000. The Australian National HPV Vaccination Program began in 2007 offering Gardasil to girls aged 12 -13 years. In 2013 the program was extended to boys. Figures from 2014–15 reveal that nearly 79% of Australian girls aged 15 and 67% of boys were fully immunised against HPV.
My radio interview began with a primer on the human papilloma virus or HPV. This is as it should be for HPV is at the heart of this matter with its connection to cervical cancer poorly understood. HPV is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection with around 80 % of the population having the infection at some stage of their lives. Furthermore 90% of these infections are gone within 2 years. There are over 100 types of human papilloma viruses with Gardasil protective against types 6,11,16 and 18. It’s important to note that prior to the latter part of the 20th century cervical cancer was a disease believed to be associated with social conditions and natural ageing. Why and how HPV is thought to cause cervical cancer is crucial to Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed.
Regrettably there wasn’t enough time to tell the story of the relentless marketing campaign that preceded the approval of Gardasil. Then our TV screens were replete with stories of cervical cancer (a disease with an annual death toll of around 200 in Australia), hardly an epidemic, reaching an uninformed public most of whom had never heard of this virus but were now anxiously waiting for a vaccine to become available as quickly as possible.
I was pleased that the team asked me about informed consent- I have included a section in my book concerning the issue. We tend to forget that vaccination is a medical intervention and that we have a fundamental right to know and understand the benefits and the risks of the particular procedure– in this case a vaccination. But how should informed consent be given? Obviously parental consent forms are a good place to start, they should be informative but they are not.
If these forms constituted informed consent then parents of young teens would know there is no scientific evidence that Gardasil has ever prevented a single case of cervical cancer. This HPV vaccine is protective against 4 types of the human papilloma virus, two of which are said to be associated with cervical cancer and the other two cause genital warts. The vaccine only lasts for five years so by the time the boy or girl is likely to be sexually active any protective effect of the vaccine will have worn off. Cervical cancer can take decades to develop so why vaccinate 12 year-old girls?
In order to pass as informed consent the vaccine information must explain the risks of this vaccine. The current consent form given to Victorian school children to take home states that the vaccine ‘is safe and well tolerated’. But a cursory read of the manufacturer Merck’s prescribing information reveals that in the trials they failed to use an inert placebo but used one containing aluminium. This way the vaccine appears safer than if the placebo was saline. Furthermore aluminium, a neurotoxin is added to the vaccine to produce a stronger immune response. Scrolling down the prescribing information one can see the long list of serious adverse effects of the vaccine including life changing neurological disorders, blood and lymphatic diseases, pancreatitis, arthritis, pulmonary embolism and death.
Marie asked me to talk more about the flawed science that I discovered in my research. I explained that the HPV vaccines had not been tested for cervical cancer outcomes. This was not possible for cervical cancer takes decades to develop so a surrogate endpoint was chosen. The surrogate endpoints chosen were pre-cancerous lesions which are very common in the age range of the women tested and rarely lead to cancer. This makes it extremely difficult to support their use as end-points or markers for cervical cancer. As Marie took this statement in, her jaw literally dropped. I can only wonder what the radio audience made of this shocking revelation. The fact that this vaccine is given to girls and boys all over the world purported to lower their risk of cervical cancer by protecting them against the human papilloma virus yet it has not been tested against cervical cancer outcomes is damning and should form part of informed consent.
Lucky for Marie she wasn’t given Gardasil. Her mother didn’t think she needed it and declined her consent. Some people are doing their research.