Daily Archives: November 19, 2011

Freedom for what? To kill young women?

As regular readers of this blog know, the Daily Mail believe that the vital importance of a free press is an excuse for anything they want to do. The confluence of reporting and commentary is so insidious and malevolent. Many newspapers are guilty but the Mail is the biggest culprit.

For me, one of the best examples of this is in the reporting of vaccine stories. I have written about this before. I wonder if I should apologise for covering old ground, but then as long as the Mail puts real lives are risk by cynically exploiting people’s fears in order to push an agenda and sell newspapers, I think I will feel compelled to respond.

So the current Mail  campaign is against the HPV vaccine: Girl, 13, Left in ‘Waking Coma’ and Sleeps For 23 Hours a Day After Severe Reaction to Cervical Cancer Jabs. Now, you don’t have to be a doctor to begin to doubt the veracity of the headline, simply reading the article itself is a good start;

“But just weeks after she received the third dose of Cervarix in May this year she began to feel exhausted.”

Let’s just cover some facts:

  1. Cevical cancer is caused by a virus (Human Papilloma Virus).
  2. The current vaccine protects against 70% of the strains that cause cancer
  3. By preventing the virus infection, the vaccine prevents the cancer
  4. If you look at the data (also in the article) the vaccine is very safe.

The subject of this article has been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. This remains a controversial issue for lots of reasons, not least because despite a lot of research, a cause has not been clearly identified. Therefore to ascribe her symptoms to the vaccine that was given weeks before is a very speculative statement at best.

Lets have a look at the little information panel they’ve included:

Now I assume that they’ve got this data from the MRHA (The medicines and healthcare products regulations agency). On their website I couldn’t find the up to date figures because they don’t publish them routinely but they are available on request. However the initial figures from the first two years are here. The importance of this is how closely vaccine reactions are tracked and recorded. So lets look at the side-effects; 4445 out of over four million vaccines is around one in a thousand reported side-effects. Of those the vast majority were local reactions and rashes. Now I don’t want to underestimate the significance of a sore arm, but I think cancer can be quite nasty too. Allergic reactions are important, because a severe reaction can be very dangerous, but the figures for anaphylaxis are extremely low. The final comment about Guillan-Barre syndrome is also very disingenuous. GBS is a nasty condition but it occurs sporadically and rarely in the population all the time. The important point is that people notice when they occur after a vaccine. If the two really were linked then the rate in the vaccinated population would be higher than the background rate. It is not.

Please remember people, coincidence is not the same thing as causation. It seems that if something occurs around the time of the vaccination, then the vaccine must be to blame.

I firmly believe that the press has an important role to play in keeping the powerful accountable. However, making stuff up and stoking up fear is something very different. I wouldn’t mind but the HPV vaccine will save many young women from a horrible and early death. If the vaccine really is dangerous then we shouldn’t use it. But it’s not. The ever-increasing evidence is that the vaccine is very safe.

I wonder, if in 15 years time someone did a study which showed that cervical cancer was massively more common amongst the daughters of Daily Mail readers, would they publish an apology? No, I thought not.

Here’s a headline for you:

Reading the Daily Mail can cause cancer in your children!

 

AFZ