In regard to Linda Poché’s human papillomavirus vaccine letter published on The Advocate’s Opinion page on Sept. 15, I’d like to respond, not to her opinion, but to the letter’s many inaccuracies and distortions that were portrayed as facts.
One of her foundational claims — HPV infections rarely result in cervical cancer — is blatantly false.
In fact, almost all of the approximately 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States are caused by HPV. In addition, cervical cancer kills 4,000 American women annually.
The next distorted claim (regarding the deaths that Poché reported as being caused by the vaccine), inaccurately and incompletely cited a statistic from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
The VAERS website instructs health-care professionals to report all significant adverse events that occur after vaccinations, “even if you are not sure whether the vaccine caused the adverse event.” Reports, therefore, are not proof of a causal relationship.
After all reports, VAERS conducts surveillance and reviews to determine if there is a cause-and-effect relationship. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the deaths reported to VAERS were investigated and were found to not have evidence suggesting that they were caused by the vaccine. In fact, some of those reported could be attributed to a cause of death unrelated to vaccination.
In other words, no deaths have been attributed to the more than 35 million doses of HPV vaccine given to date.
Poché continues on her fallacious trajectory when she wrongly states the vaccine does not protect boys from any cancers. Once again, scientific evidence stands in opposition to Poché’s opinion. According to the CDC, the HPV vaccine prevents genital warts and anal cancer.
The final erroneous point to be corrected is Poché’s statement that the vaccine only lasts three years for boys and five years for girls. Once again, the CDC refutes Poché’s sentiments with science. Six-year follow-up data indicate the vaccines are effective, with no evidence of waning protection. And as additional data becomes available, information on the HPV vaccine duration of protection is updated by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on the CDC website.
I am no longer surprised by public skepticism regarding immunizations, nor the widespread paranoia that will undermine one of the greatest achievements in public health.
I am, however, disappointed that the media once again have played their pivotal role in misinforming the public about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.
We will never know how failing to fact check your letters to the editor will affect the CDC statistics of tomorrow.
Rachel Hausmann, M.D.