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Has the HPV vaccine caused 160 deaths?

Has the HPV vaccine caused 160 deaths?

Posted 11/27/2015

Gardasil - tested and tested againGardasil - tested and tested againA common anti-vax trick is to use VAERS data to "prove" vaccines are dangerous.

VAERS is an open, public reporting platform where anyone can report an adverse side effect from a vaccine. There's a similar system in many countries, including the UK where it's called the Yellow Card Scheme.

It's useful for getting large amounts of data on vaccine safety in the real world and was once used to identify a small, previously undetected side effect of an old rotavirus vaccine: in 1/10,000 cases it could trigger intussusception, essentially a blockage in the intestines.

The side effect wasn't detected during testing because around 1/2,000 infants suffer from the problem naturally and the small extra risk was hidden in the crowd. Only the large amounts of data available from these public reporting systems enabled the side effect to be identified.

The old vaccine was quickly withdrawn (it took about 6 months for the risk to be identified) and we have a new, safer version of the rotavirus vaccine. The new vaccine is still carefully monitored by the same reporting systems, has shown no sign of similar side effects, and saves around 30 lives a year in the UK, and perhaps double that in the US.

The problem with these reporting systems is that the raw data can be misleading. Anyone can submit a report and the system can take a complete record of every vaccine ever received by the patient in question, even if it was administered years earlier. There is no checking, filtering or editing of the raw data to weed out errors or false reports.

What anti-vaxxers do is run a search for a vaccine and an adverse side effect of choice, usually death. VAERS happily replies with a list of all the people who have been reported dead who also were reported as receiving that vaccine at some point in their lives. The anti-vaxxer then quotes that number as undeniable fact: X number of people were killed by this vaccine.

But this "fact" is simply not true. It is not how these reporting systems work. They are intended to spot large patterns over 10s of thousands of reports, not to identify individual problems.

In recent years, the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix have been a target for this particular trick. Searching VAERS reveals around 160 reported deaths where the deceased had, at some point in their life, received an HPV vaccine.

The Independent newspaper fell for this trick earlier in the year and published data reporting 8000 adverse events from HPV vaccines as if they were fact. They were vilified by the scientific press but remained unrepentant to having the wool pulled over their eyes.

But how do we know there haven't been 160 deaths caused by the HPV vaccine? Well, because we can check the reports individually to see if the vaccine was the cause.

A computer engineer called Dan Kegel did just that. He extracted the HPV data a couple of years ago and sifted through the (at that time) 130 reported deaths associated with HPV vaccine. The results are on his website, linked to below.

VAERS reports of death following vaccination with Gardasil

I warn you, the results do not make for happy reading. These are, by and large, young girls and women whose lives were sadly cut short. Some of the deaths are by suicide, one death was from cancer, only 9 days after receiving the vaccine.

The short version is that there's no possibility that most of the deaths were caused by the vaccine - for example, accidentally falling into an open quarry 5 months later.

Several of the deaths were due to unknown causes, but there's no reason to suspect the vaccine. Why? Because there's no larger pattern to the data suggesting the vaccine is to blame for any of these deaths. This is what VAERS is there for: to spot previously unseen patterns in large amounts of data.

The only "fact" is that this safety data is monitored continuously (the data is officially reviewed once a week in the UK, for example) and any hint that there might be a problem is followed up by experts who will no doubt have families and young daughters of their own.

The HPV vaccine has been tested and re-tested and is used and monitored for its safety around the world. It is safe and it is saving lives from the cancer that HPV infection can cause.