An experiment on her generation

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.

Can we talk about this?

Current thinking is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and that all girls and boys in early high school need to be given HPV vaccines. In my book Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed I trace the early history of cervical cancer from a disease of obscurity to one of mainstream prominence. I have found and documented the numerous theories about the cause(s) of cervical cancer which have come and gone over the decades. I have read and written about how in the early years of the nineteenth century physicians claimed that sex was involved for it was observed that the disease was found in larger numbers among poorer, city women than amongst women in long term and stable relationships and in women who were living in rural areas. It was also thought that the disease was very rare in nuns until further research showed that religious sisters were subject to the disease too, and that, contrary to prevailing opinion, women in long-term relationships also developed cervical cancer. It was suggested that in the case of cancer of the uterus that the trauma of childbirth itself could be a risk factor. Such speculation might explain why there was more cervical cancer among women of low socioeconomic status than among women of means. Poorer women tended to have more children, lived harsher lives and possibly received less medical care, as well as missing out on much-needed rest and recovery time after the birth of their children.

I believe these early researchers were on the right track when they suspected that social circumstances such as poverty and inequality were in some way implicated in the disease process. British psychologist, author and researcher Susan Quilliam documented these lifestyle factors that might increase the chance of becoming ill with cervical cancer in her 1989 book Positive Smear. Written just before the idea that the human papillomavirus might be involved, she stressed the importance of a balanced diet and claimed that deficiencies in vitamin C, beta carotene and folic acid were common in women with cervical precancerous cells. Quilliam strongly emphasised the importance of a healthy environment, good hygiene and excellent nutrition as prerequisites for good health and resistance to disease. When discussing the causes of cervical cancer, she doesn’t shy away from a conversation about the contraceptive pill and how it has a negative effect on natural immunity as well as a propensity to lessen the body’s ability to use folic acid.

Today such environmental and socioeconomic factors relevant to the causation of cervical cancer are rarely considered. Instead the human papilloma virus is said to cause cervical cancer, no questions asked or answered.  Why, when and how this has happened is crucial to the story of Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed.

 

Melbourne Launch of Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed by Helen Lobato

To be launched by women’s health researcher Dr Renate Klein

When: Friday June 9

Time: 5 pm for 5.30 pm

Where: Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, 251 Faraday St, Carlton, Vic 3053

RSVP: Monday June 5 women@spinifexpress.com.au

 

In Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed Helen Lobato argues that we do not know whether HPV vaccines will decrease the incidence of cervical cancer. What is emerging, however, is evidence of their harmful effects. In 2006, the experimental HPV vaccination program began and there have been at least 315 associated deaths and more than 50,000 adverse events following HPV vaccination.

Gardasil was fast-tracked through the FDA, a process usually reserved for life threatening diseases to fill an unmet and urgent medical need. Improved living conditions had already reduced the incidence of cervical cancer significantly in Western countries. So why is the HPV vaccine so heavily promoted in Australia, a country with one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world?

Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed documents the early history of cervical cancer and tracks its progression from a disease of obscurity to one of mainstream prominence. It includes the stories of vaccinated girls and boys who remain ill after receiving a vaccine purported to prevent a disease they were most unlikely to get. It records the voices of dissenters and resisters who call for an inquiry into HPV vaccines approved for use after a relentless propaganda campaign promoting a vaccine against a virus that many had never heard of.

This in-depth investigation exposes cracks in the pharmaceutical industry and highlights the problems that arise when government regulators and corporate interests are prioritized ahead of patient safety, independent science and common sense.

 

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