Everyone should listen to the August 1st 2008 Nine to Noon broadcast on Gardasil, misnamed, The Gardasil Debate . Kathryn Ryan interviewed Dr Diane Harper from Dartmouth University, who conducted Merck’s Gardasil trials, and then Dr Alison Roberts, who is in charge of defending anything remotely linked to the vaccine programme.
Kathryn Ryan started off by struggling to introduce “debate”, by saying that Dr Harper was alleging that Merck was overselling Gardasil’s effectiveness by not telling parents that the vaccine may only last five years and because of that, girls might need regular boosters, and would still need to have regular smears. Why bring that argument here, when at the end of the interview Dr Harper gushed that everything she had heard about the programme here was so wonderful? By the time you got to the end of the interview, Dr Roberts and Dr Harper were firmly wrapped together in a warm fuzzy love fest, with any pretence of debate vaporized.
Two interesting “controversies” came out of this corporate info-ad:
The first was that long term “efficacy” of this vaccine depended on ONE study of antibody titres, which started with 500 women in it, but ended five years later with only 100 women still in the study. So… four out of five women were dropped for one reason or another. Dr Harper is concerned that without detectable antibodies, which all those 100 women had, those vaccinated at 12 will need boosters at aged 17? No. By the end of the programme, both doctors are inferring that that’s unlikely to be the case.
Some “debate” here. Anyway, who says that lack of antibodies means a person has no protection against HP viruses? Certainly not the maker of Gardasil (1), who said: “antibody naturally induced by PV infection may not be the sole means of protecting against further infection…” and elsewhere he said: “Protection against reinfection with PV seems solid in those with congenital antibody deficiency, suggesting that cell-mediated immunity as well as antibodies may play a role in protecting against reinfection.”
Let’s play Dr Harper at her own game and try to find some debate, shall we? Let’s ask this question: “If the lead researcher on this vaccine truly believes that lack of antibody could result in disease susceptibility around five years later, then why did she not question the vaccination of most of the western world’s billions of adolescents on the basis of her study of … wait for it… 100 women?”
Shouldn’t she have been pushing for better answers, in maybe 5,000 women?
The second thing Dr Harper said, was that Gardasil worked in older women already exposed to HPV. But what does she mean by that? A study (2) done in Costa Rica on women already exposed to all vaccine virus types, looked at whether the vaccine cleared already existing HPV types. It found that, “there is little, if any, therapeutic benefit from the vaccine in the [Costa Rican] population we studied. Furthermore, we see no reason to believe that there is therapeutic benefit of the vaccine elsewhere…”, and that the vaccine “should not be used for purposes of treating prevalent infections”.
Hmmm….. What a bonanza for Merck vaccinating all ages would be. Now that researchers are finding HP viruses in head and neck cancers as well as various other cancers unrelated to sexual activity, Gardasil might be the ‘answer’ for everything for every age. Just like the flu jab!
Two things worried me. At no point did Kathryn Ryan challenge the outrageousness of pinning the future of billions of women’s antibody durability on the results of ONE 5-year study of 100 guinea-pig humans.
Worse, was the continued inference that HP viruses which cause cancer, only spread between people when sexual intercourse starts. In the future, will the medical researchers who have consistently warned vaccine manufacturers that HP viruses which purportedly ‘cause’ cancer, are first transmitted in utero to the unborn baby; from parent to child; and child to child, come home to haunt these vaccine defenders, who willingly front Merck’s “any-story-angle-is-great-for-publicity” Help-Pay-for-Vioxx segments?
Did Kathryn Ryan realise by the end, this mutual back scratching session sounded less like a “debate” than a “jack-up”? Or, that twice in two months, she has given two handsomely Merck-financed vaccine-defenders the floor on her programme, with nary a debate to be heard?
(1)Frazer, I. 2006. “God’s Gift to Women: The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine” Immunity. Aug;25(2):179-84, 179-184. PMID:16920633.
(2) Hildesheim, A. et al. 2007. “Effect of human papillomavirus 16/18 L1 viruslike particle vaccine among young women with preexisting infection: a randomized trial.” JAMA. 2007 Aug 15;298(7):743-53. PMID: 17699008 .