The HPV Vaccine: Some facts everyone should know

As the political season gets more animated, I have decided that I will throw some articles that are only involved in politics when I see the need.  Vaccines are one topic that is in dire need of some discussion.  So when the topic reared it’s ugly head recently, I decided that I would take my skeptic banner and enter a slightly different forum.

The main issue that has arisen is that Michele Bachmann has decided to attack the HPV vaccine.  She is doing so as a purely political ploy against Rick Perry because he is leading in the polls.  The problem is that what she in particular has said, is wrong on many levels.

Regardless of your particular views on Gov. Perry using an executive order to require the vaccine, the vaccine itself is a  needed one.  It is not on the same scale of something like the smallpox vaccine, but it is more comparable to the whooping cough vaccine in value to the public health.  The proper name for whooping cough is Pertussis and it results in ~300,000 deaths per year.   Most of those deaths could be prevented by the use of the DTP vaccine that has been available since the 1940’s.

The problem with the DTP and all vaccines, is that there are some people who have a bad response to the vaccine.  DTP is one of these vaccines that has garnered controversy as a health risk.  The unfortunate problem with all vaccines is that it is a numbers game.  Some small percentage of the population (typically < 0.001%) will have an adverse reaction of some sort that will cause problems and even death.  The problem is, that without the vaccine, far more people will die.  Here is an old article from 1986 that dives into the details of the DTP vaccine.  The quick summary is this:

Japan: 1972-1974 1,024 cases of whooping cough, 6 deaths.

Japan: 1977-1979, 28,000 cases of whooping cough, 93 deaths.

The increase is directly related to the fear about the vaccine when two children died from an adverse reaction.  So two deaths resulted in enough fear that people stopped vaccinating their children and the death rate increased 15.5x.

Vaccines are one place where the public good is served by ensuring a high (>95%) vaccination rate.

The HPV vaccine prevents a virus that that causes cervical cancer and other cancers to a lesser extent.  It is the first vaccine that has been shown to reduce a type of cancer, but likely not the first.  In 2002 it is estimated that that the ~470,000 new cases of cancer were caused by the HP virus which resulted in ~233,000 deaths.  The HPV vaccine is the most effective way of reducing this form of cancer.  Greatly reducing the 5th leading cause of cancer death among women seems like a worthwhile endeavour.

The only way to combat viruses is to have a large percentage of the population vaccinated.  For the HPV vaccine, this requires the vaccine be given before sexual activity starts.  Vaccines save lives.  The HPV vaccine has the potential to save lives and Michele Bachmann is hurting the HPV vaccine by attacking its usage.  Here is her quote from the most recent debate:

“To have innocent little 12 year old girls be forced to have a government injection through and executive order is just flat out wrong.”

I would like to point out that her home state of Minnesota has requirements for vaccines in order to attend child care, school and college.  For someone who has raised 20+ children she should know that in many cases vaccines are required for the public good and they should be.  Regardless of how that requirement was implemented, it was done for the good of the children that get the vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is new and like most new vaccines it will take time for it to be widely used.  To come out and use such language about a vaccine that could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year is totally unacceptable.  To do so only to gain political points is an atrocity.  Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost each year to the cancer that this virus causes.  Since the vaccine is worthless when given later, it must be administered early for it to be effective.

I support science in all aspects.  In this case Michele Bachmann is clearly in the wrong from the scientific perspective.  Her attack on vaccines is unacceptable on every level.  She is further compounding her initial attack by focusing on the rare cases where someone did react badly to a vaccine.  That type of behavior must be strongly condemned by all responsible members of society.

I have two daughters that are approaching the age when they need the HPV vaccine and they will be getting it.  I understand that there is a risk of a bad reaction, but for their future health there is no question that it is the safer choice.  Michele Bachmann and her attack on vaccines is reprehensible.  She gets a failing grade for science and a failing grade for her utter lack of responsibility on this issue.  It is one thing to argue the governmental procedure for requiring a vaccine, it is something else to attack vaccines.  She has crossed the line on a public safety issue and she should be condemned for it.

Posted in Politics by inconvenientskeptic on September 14th, 2011 at 12:39 am.


This post has 12 comments

  1. John, Are your numbers worldwide versus US. I have read that the incidence of cervical cancer and the deaths due to it have dropped significantly in recent years. shows In 2007 (the most recent year numbers are available)�
    �12,280 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer.*2
    �4,021 women in the United States died from cervical cancer.*2. I have also read that by Mercks own data they would not expect the US impact to be significant. Beyond the obvious bias on the site. What do you think about the numbers? I think Michele Bachmann is focusing on the wrong issue here but I am not sure all the facts are being reported on this vaccine. How would the average person know if this is worth the risk?

  2. inconvenientskeptic Sep 18th 2011


    There are two methods of dealing with cervical cancer. Early detection (pap smears) and the HPV virus. The deathrate I presented was worldwide. The US detects it early a great deal because of the healthcare system.

    Prevention is always easier and while the number of deaths is low in the US, it would prevent the number of cases of cancer greatly. The HPV vaccine is the equivalent of not smoking. It is an easy and cheap way to prevent cancer.

  3. Malaga View Sep 18th 2011

    I would personally recommend that you get yourself a copy of:
    Fear of the Invisible – An investigation of viruses and vaccines by Janine Roberts
    This book is very hard to swallow because we have all been taught the Settled Science about vaccines… but there other facts and perspectives – just the same as with AGW and Climate Change… I think this book by Janine Roberts is VERY IMPORTANT reading… but don’t take my word for that… have a read… and make up your own mind…. this book is astonishing.

    Personally: I do not endorse the concept of injecting humans (or animals) with any witches brew that contain any of the following ingredients:
    Viruses from chickens / humans / monkeys
    RNA and DNA fragments
    Cellular degradation products
    Hydrolyzed gelatin (porcine)
    Monosodium glutamate
    Hydrochloric acid
    Trypsin – a pork-derived enzyme

    David Pratt has a review of the book at

    The Janine Roberts website is at

  4. inconvenientskeptic Sep 19th 2011


    As I stated, it is a numbers game. Vaccines are not perfect and they can cause problems for some people. Smallpox, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio no longer ravage mankind because of vaccines.

    While they can cause injury, they by far serve the greater good.

    I have lived in Africa for a while and I can say without any doubt that in the balance, vaccines are much, much, much better than the alternative.

  5. Malaga View Sep 19th 2011

    Seriously: check your assumptions and sources.
    I am currently halfway through the book and I am REALLY amazed…
    I thought Climate Science was an exception… I am now learning differently.

    Smallpox, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio no longer ravage mankind because of vaccines.

    Lets take polio as an example.

    Like you most people (including doctors, government employees and health workers) believe what they are told: vaccines save us from infection.

    Therefore, nobody gets polio anymore because they have been vaccinated… and the official statistics support this view.

    However, there is a problem: What happens when an ill patient displays the symptoms of polio?

    They evidently can’t have polio (can they?) because it has been effectively eradicated… so it must be something else… so they established new rules for doctors that made it virtually impossible for them to diagnose polio… doctors in the USA were therefore instructed to diagnose some cases as viral or aseptic meningitis – even if the polio virus was present… this was still not enough… so now the diagnosis of polio (by a doctor) is generally prohibited by the regulatory authority…. and while this is happening the World Health Organization is publishing statistics regarding an epidemic of “Acute Flaccid Paralysis”.

    Between 1951 and 1960 in the United States 70,083 cases of non-paralytic polio were diagnosed – and zero cases of aseptic meningitis. But under the new diagnostic rules this was reversed. Over the next twenty years over 100,000 cases of aseptic meningitis were diagnosed and only 589 cases of non-paralytic polio.


    Other cases previously diagnosed as polio would in future be classified as ‘cerebral palsy’, as ‘Guillain-Barre syndrome’ and even as ‘muscular dystrophy’. Some were called ‘Hand, Foot and Mouth Diseases’, which can also cause paralysis.

    Page 65 – Fear of the Invisible â�� An investigation of viruses and vaccines by Janine Roberts

    vaccines are much, much, much better than the alternative…. all I can say is: check your sources and facts… yes the diseases can be very horrible… but so can the reactions to vaccinations… so it is a numbers games… but the numbers are in favour of a pure water supply, good sanitation, improved housing and better nutrition.

    In the early 1980s about 1 in 10,000 American children were diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). By 2005 one in every 250 American children were so afflicted and the CDC now says it is as high as 1 in 50. In the UK the National Autistic Society estimates that over 1 in 100 are afflicted. In 2007 it was calculated that 1 in 58 boys were afflicted in the UK.

    Page 82 – Fear of the Invisible â�� An investigation of viruses and vaccines by Janine Roberts

  6. Malaga View Sep 20th 2011

    I’ve just finished the book… the story of bad science it tells is simply horrifying… the story of settled science, faith and denialism echoes so strongly with the AGW debate… amazing… it is very lengthy challenge to articulate all the bad science… so here is an example to get you thinking about the science behind vaccines.

    How ‘Measles Virus’ is isolated for a Vaccine

    In an online paper entitled â��Isolation and Identification of Measles Virus in Cell Culture,’ the CDC, the central Health Research authority of the USA, lays out how isolation of this virus should be done so it can be used, say for a vaccine.

    It instructs, first obtain from the patient a small sample of urine or fluid from the nose or mouth.

    Next ‘sacrifice’ a marmoset monkey, take some of its cells, then make these cancerous, perhaps by exposing them to radiation, and then give them, on top of this, Epstein-Barr disease! Such extremely sick cells, the CDC informs us, are ‘10,000 times’ more sensitive to the measles virus than are normal human cells.

    Now add to these cells a toxin called trypsin. The CDC tells us to expect some cells to fall off the sides of the vessel as if they have been poisoned. They have been. Now add nutrients and glucose and leave for two or three days so the cells can somewhat recover.

    Now add to the cells the sample gathered from the patient. After an hour, inspect the cells in the culture with a microscope to see if any of the cells are becoming distorted, or are floating free as they did when trypsin was added. If they are, the CDC says this is proof that measles virus is present and making the cells ill.

    This statement made me sit back and think. Why should this illness now be caused by a virus? They had poisoned the cells, made them cancerous….. and now the CDC was saying the cells must be ill because they had measles. Where was the logic in this?

    The next stage involves the addition of two antibiotics, Penicillin and Streptomycin, to the culture and leaving it alone for a day. Again the cells are inspected – and if small holes now appear between cells, it is now presumed that measles virus has caused these. If no sign of such damage, this process is repeated. If after this there are still no signs of damage, then the culture is discarded. However, if 50% or more of the cells are now seriously ill and distorted, the culture is set aside and kept in the fridge as â��isolated measles virus stock suitable for vaccines!’ All this without actually detecting the virus itself!

    This is the whole process as recommended by the CDC. There is no mention of the need to have a control culture, no mention of any need to isolate the measles virus or even to see it with an electron microscope. The cells are poisoned – and an unseen measles virus is blamed – even thou’ the disease the cells have is totally unlike measles. Where is the logic in this?

  7. Sheri Kimbrough Sep 20th 2011

    I agree vaccines have improved health overall and it’s very difficult to get people to understand numbers’ games. With HPV, there are a couple of “new” problems not related to effectiveness. For one, as you mentioned, it is time sensitive. You can’t wait for the child to grow up and make a decision. Adults can be vaccinated for many of the other diseases mentioned such as whooping cough, tetnus, etc. Also, there is a moral component–it’s a sexually transmitted disease. People may feel that vaccinating their children will encourage sexual activity. (I would note that the vaccine probably should be given to 9 year olds since there are rumors of school systems handing out condoms to 10 year olds.) Looking at a 9 year old even a 12 year old and realizing your child will one day and possibly very soon, be a sexual creature can be very traumatic for parents. Unfortunately, a lot of human decisions are based more on emotion than science. I agree that attacking vaccines is a really bad idea for a politician. Mandatory vaccines may cause all kinds of emotional and political reactions, but all the science says they work. Since science is an on-going process, that could change, but only with research, not book writing.

  8. inconvenientskeptic Sep 20th 2011

    That falls into FUD. Here is why we have vaccines.

    250 years ago people were taking pus samples from a sick person and sticking that into them because the smallpox that a person got from that was less likely to kill them.

    George Washington forced his army to go through that and it saved lives. Vaccines save lives.

  9. intrepid_wanders Sep 21st 2011


    I am afraid that your skeptism fails you on this one. Yes, Bachmann is five nines incoherent as a drunken five year old, but the quest to cure the common cold, influenza (A, B and C), HIV and cancer has been high on the pharmaceuticals lists of “golden goose” mentality.

    Why would a “good” vaccine be good for only 4 years and get rejected by the FDA for age group 27-45?

    Ah, the money trial…

    “Dr. Anne Francis, who chairs an American Academy of Pediatrics committee that advocates for better insurer reimbursement on vaccines, called Merck’s change of heart “a good move for the public.”

    “I believe that their timing was a little bit premature,” she said, “so soon after (Gardasil’s) release, before we have a picture of whether there are going to be any untoward side effects.”

    “Given that the country has been “burned” by some drugs whose serious side effects emerged only after they were in wide use, including Merck’s withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, Francis said, it would be better to wait awhile before mandating Gardasil usage.”

    It is your world my friend, but it sure seems being handed one half of a tire and expecting to roll on it.

    Best of all.

  10. Malaga View Sep 21st 2011

    250 years ago people were taking pus samples from a sick person and sticking that into them because the smallpox that a person got from that was less likely to kill them.

    and the pus samples were probably more effective if they were from the same blood group…. and dairymaids seemed to have protection from smallpox by their exposure to cowpox…


    What was in the pus that made it effective?

    Anti-bodies? White blood cells? Anti-toxins? Low dose exposure to the disease? Viruses? Retro-Viruses?

    They don’t know now… they can’t even isolate a single virus for culture and testing because it is so small… let alone a retrovirus (which is even smaller)… they only a fragments of DNA which they assume are from their target virus… but some people do string these fragments together and claim it is the real thing. Seriously the science is full of flawed assumptions, confirmation bias, bad practise, lack of monitoring and testing, manipulated statistics and fraud… but the list of horrors is even longer.

    Those old treatments were MORE scientific than what they are doing NOW!

    A virus / retro-virus is a very small chemical messenger generated in multi-cell organisms… they are not alive – they cannot reproduce – they have no intelligence – they cannot mutate… the cells of your body are awash in a sea of them… they are produced by your own healthy body cells… they enable a multi-cell organism to respond to their changing environment… the cells work collectively together… so lots of viruses / retro-viruses are produced when the body is collectively fighting off an infection.

    Therefore, the real FUD are the hysterical virus scares and vaccination drives!

  11. Sheri Kimbrough Sep 21st 2011

    Does anyone still understand that all of life has risks? We seem to have become a society that demands absolutely no risk in our medicines, foods, etc. In addition, people often think that manmade things are very bad and part of a conspiracy while believing with all their hearts that nature is loving and caring and would not hurt us. Small risks, even when enumerated, are then part of a lawsuit against drug manufacturers. If we honestly wanted zero risk in everything, we would have to find an alternate reality (yeah….) where that exists. There is nothing in life that is risk-free. Scary accounts of how many people had reactions to the vaccines completely overshadow stories of people suffering and dying from diseases. It seems Chicken Little is alive and well. And the sky is not falling……

  12. inconvenientskeptic Sep 21st 2011

    This thread is crossing the line at this point. Time to take a deep breath and agree to disagree.

    I appreciate the enthusiasm, but as there is little more supporting evidence to be brought forward, let’s put this to rest in peace before the discussion descends any further.

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