Common Sense Health: Facts, Not Fear Should Guide Our Decisions about the HPV Vaccine
By Maureen McDonnell, RN
With a new school year starting, parents are under pressure to get their children vaccinated against HPV and other infections. Additionally, the CDC is about to launch a new PR campaign aimed at convincing the public that the HPV vaccine is necessary, should be given to young children and will protect against cancer. But facts, not fear must guide our decisions.
Women’s health author and physician Christiane Northrup, MD clarifies some of the confusion surrounding this topic:
“So let’s start with an important and irrefutable fact. The HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix do not prevent cervical cancer or any other type of cancer. They may protect you from contracting some strains of HPV for a period of time. Gardasil is genetically engineered to target the four most common strains of HPV known to be associated with cervical cancer, although there are 14 strains that are also implicated. (There are actually over 100 known HPV strains.) Cervarix targets fewer cervical cancer-causing strains, but seems to offer better protection from genital warts than Gardasil. Both vaccines also protect against anal and penile lesions to some extent, which is one reason why HPV vaccines are being heavily marketed to boys and young men. But even a recent, highly touted study that suggests that the rate of HPV lesions has decreased because of the vaccine is seriously flawed. The study included girls who had never had sex and also girls who had not been vaccinated!” (1)
Of course we want to protect our children and ourselves against the most common sexually transmitted disease: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that an estimated 20 million Americans are now infected with. Unquestionably, if the body does not clear it, this virus can turn into a persistent infection which can lead to the development of genital warts, cervical, throat or other types of cancer. And when Michael Douglas announced that his throat cancer was caused by the HPV virus which he acquired by having oral sex, many felt a heightened sense of concern. However, the question remains: without long term safety studies, why is the vaccine to prevent HPV now being recommended (and in some states mandated) for girls and boys as young as 9 years of age? Many of us are also wondering if vaccines are always the safest, best and only way to prevent the spread of infections.
Epidemiological studies report that sexually active men and women are at the greatest risk for developing an HPV infection and that 74% of infections occur between the ages of 14 and 24. These studies also estimate that 80% of sexually active women will acquire an HPV infection by age 50. Just as important however is this fact: 90% of HPV infections clear on their own within two years and in younger women, they often clear within a year.
Diane Harper, MD was the principal investigator and lead research scientist in the development of the original vaccine for HPV. She appears in a film that questions the safety of vaccines entitled: The Greater Good (GreaterGoodMovie.org) in which she expresses concern about the rush to market the HPV vaccine after only 15 months of an originally scheduled four-year trial. She says the vaccine should not have been “fast-tracked” in this way and is troubled by the reports of many adverse reactions including Juvenile ALS, pancreatitis, and autoimmune problems. She also states that the vaccine has only been shown to provide protection from HPV for five years. The question then that we should be asking is: since most women are not becoming sexually active until, on average, age 17, (and protection only lasts for five years) why is the vaccine recommended for females as young as nine years of age?
On October 25, 2011, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also voted to recommend giving the HPV vaccine to males between the ages of 11 and 21.
Barbara Loe Fisher, the founder and director of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC.org) in Washington, DC who appears with Dr. Harper in the film discusses her opposition to “forced” vaccination policies as well as her concern over the sheer number of vaccines children now receive. In the 1980’s children received approx 11 vaccines before entering kindergarten, and now three decades later they receive anywhere from 36-45 vaccines prior to the age of five. Another safety consideration is that during this same 30-year period that we experienced this drastic increase in the number of vaccines we give our children, the autism rates increased in children from three per 10,000 to one in 50, Asthma increased by 300% and many other chronic illnesses including Diabetes, Cancer, ADHD, etc. have escalated beyond anyone’s prediction or expectation.
Several physicians interviewed for the film expressed similar concerns regarding the fact that since the release of Gardasil, in 2006 and Cervarix in 2009, the Vaccine Adverse Event Recording System (VAERS) received and recorded over 15,000 incidences of adverse reactions. Additionally, the Judicial Watch group (after obtaining records from FDA via the Freedom of Information Act) reported in October 2011 47 deaths associated with the HPV vaccine.
A few facts to consider regarding HPV, cervical cancer and the vaccine:
• 50% of men and women will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime.
• Persistent infections can lead to genital warts in men and women and cervical cancer in women.
• Not all persistent infections develop into precancerous lesions and not all precancerous lesions persist to become cervical cancer. (2)
• 90% of HPV infections clear on their own. A quote from the National Cancer Institute: “It is important to note that the great majority of high-risk HPV infections go away ontheir own and do not cause cervical cancer (3)
• A study in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that the use of condoms decreases the risk of acquiring HPV by 70%. HPV has been detected in 99.7% of all cervical cancers making it the highest level of association for a specific cause of a major human cancer. For women in the US, Cervical Cancer represents 1.6% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.3% of deaths. (4)
• Cervical cancer typically takes 20 years to develop and is also associated with other risk factors: smoking, increased age, presence of other STD’s and a suppressed immune system. According to Merck’s own research, if you have been exposed to HPV strains 16 or 18 prior to receipt of Gardasil vaccine, you could increase your risk of precancerous lesions, or worse, by 44.6 percent.
• Pap smears remain the only proven method for cervical cancer prevention. In the 1960s when Pap tests became a routine part of health care for women in the US, cervical cancer cases dropped 74%.
• Dr. Northrup and many other integrative MDs suggest as a means of prevention: “boosting your immunity and adopting lifestyle habits that support your health overall. This includes making sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. Studies show that those with optimal vitamin D levels cut their cancer risk (all causes) in half!”
• The manufacturer of the vaccine spent over 100 million dollars in advertising the first year the vaccine was on the market. Sales of Gardasil topped 2 Billion dollars in 2008.
• According to a poll conducted by the National Vaccine Information Center, there have been more reactions and deaths associated with Gardasil than with any other vaccine.
• Congress passed a law in the 1980s which does not allow an individual to sue a vaccine manufacturer for damages caused by a vaccine. One must go through the Vaccine Compensation Court. To date, that court has awarded over two billion dollars in damages associated with vaccines.
This is not an easy list of facts to wade through. But as we make our individual choices regarding whether we, our nine-year-old child, or our teen should receive this vaccine, it is these very facts (not profit-driven scare tactics), that need to be carefully reviewed. Recently, in California, a bill was signed into law (AB499) permitting children as young as 12 to be presented with information on cervical cancer and subsequently receive the HPV vaccine in school without their parents knowledge or consent. And when the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry tried to mandate that all 11-year-old girls in his state receive the vaccine, it was discovered that his chief of staff was a former lobbyist for Merck. As Barbara Loe Fisher is quoted as saying: “That’s not science, that’s politics!”
A few unanswered questions about the HPV vaccines:
1. The vaccine is produced in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (Baker’s yeast). So it is contraindicated for people with a yeast problem. However, many individuals with candida or yeast have never been tested for or diagnosed with it and therefore would not be aware that they are potential candidates for having an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
2. Because it is not a live vaccine, co-administration with other vaccines (given at the same time) is permitted. I have yet to find one study in which the short or long term safety of administering Gardasil along with other vaccines was studied.
3. It is also recommended that the vaccine can be given with minor acute illnesses and/or when a person is immune suppressed. If physicians, the FDA, the CDC & the American Academy of Pediatrics actually listened to the thousands of parents of children who developed autism after receiving immunizations while sick, no one would ever give vaccines at a time when a child or teen was showing signs of illness.
4. Every child is unique and possess their own set of predisposing factors (including personal and family medical history, which may include severe allergies or autoimmune and neurological disorders) that must be taken into account when assessing the risks of vaccines.
Summary: We now live in a time when vaccines have become the Holy Grail of the pharmaceutically dominated medical system, and the belief that they are the only safe and effective method for eradicating disease is a basic but flawed tenet of this system and those of us who question vaccines … are presumed to be medical heretics! However, with insufficient safety data and reports of mild, severe and even fatal adverse reactions, it is our duty as the guardians of our children’s health to probe deeper and ask why we are subjecting young girls and boys to a vaccine for an infection that 90% of the time clears on its own, that provides limited protection, and for which the idea that the benefits outweigh the risks remains uncertain.
Drawing from his extensive knowledge and 40 years’ experience as a practicing physician, New Jersey-based MD Stuart Freedenfeld, lends his perspective: “Cervical cancer is a disease that takes the life of perhaps three women out of every 10,000 women in this country. In my medical training I was taught that death by cervical cancer is completely preventable with yearly Pap smears. Over time we discovered that Pap screening as infrequently as every three years would be just as effective in preventing death from this disease. The vast majority of women who succumb to cervical cancer are women who do not get screened or are immune deficient such as those suffering with advanced HIV.
To now take that reality and scare the American public, and more specifically the American children, into unwarranted fear about developing cancer if they do not rush off and get this set of vaccines is an outrage and an affront to our collective responsibility to those children. I have always been particularly uneasy about injecting DNA virus material into our bodies but when that DNA is combined with 225 mcg of aluminum, the safety of which has never been tested in humans, and 50 mcg of polysorbate 80, then I have very serious concerns about the safety of this substance that we are proposing to inject into a child to protect against a disease that they almost certainly would never be harmed by.”
This article originally appeared in the September 4, 2013, issues of WNC Woman.
Maureen McDonnell, RN
Maureen McDonnell has been a nutritionally-oriented RN for 36 years. She hosts a popular series of health classes at the beautiful Wysteria Inn in Weaverville, in which Maureen explains the importance of GI health, liver detoxing, weight loss, decreasing inflammation, insulin resistance and much more.