Bioethics, vaccination

“Homework” (fallacies about Gardasil)

Last week I posted on research that shows that Gardasil, the Merck vaccine against four strains of the Human Papilloma Virus, may actually give partial protection against 8 more strains.

There’s a comment today on that post from someone who warns us to do our “homework” and gives a link to a video on “You Tube” that appears to be made in a radio station, during an interview between a host called “Alex” and Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum.

(Mrs. Adams and I agree on 98% of things. I admire the work that she does and am thrilled when we can work together. But, we’ve disagreed before and we probably will in the future.)

I believe that “Alex” is Alex Jones, of “InfoWars” radio network and something called “Prison Planet.” Alex screams and cusses (Texas slang for cursing and bad language) while spreading falsehoods that he could so easily check. First, the vaccine is not a live virus. Alex Jones got that one completely wrong. It’s certainly not the first vaccine of its kind, other than having antigens against four strains of HPV.

In fact, Gardasil is made the same way as most of the commercially available insulin that diabetics inject into themselves several times a day, like Humulin N, and Lantus.

We’ve used “recombinant DNA vaccines” for well over 20 years to make vaccines like the Hepatitis B vaccine and proteins like insulin. Strains of yeast or bacteria – in Gardasil its Saccharomyces cerevisiae, common bakers’ yeast and for insulin, it’s E. coli– are induced to make the proteins.

This vaccine uses alumininum. But so do many other vaccines that we’ve been using for years.

There is a mention of the thimerosal that has been used in some vaccines as a preservative. Thimerosal contains mercury, and there has been concern about the cumulative doses that babies were exposed to due to the 20 to 30 vaccinations that they get the first two years of their lives.

The biggest fear was that the mercury caused autism. A couple of years ago, lawsuits caused the removal of thimerosal from most vaccines, but the number of cases of autism have not gone down. This week, the New England Journal of Medicine reported a new study – and published it with free access – that gives us more evidence that there is probably no connection.

Results Among the 42 neuropsychological outcomes, we detected only a few significant associations with exposure to mercury from thimerosal. The detected associations were small and almost equally divided between positive and negative effects. Higher prenatal mercury exposure was associated with better performance on one measure of language and poorer performance on one measure of attention and executive functioning. Increasing levels of mercury exposure from birth to 7 months were associated with better performance on one measure of fine motor coordination and on one measure of attention and executive functioning. Increasing mercury exposure from birth to 28 days was associated with poorer performance on one measure of speech articulation and better performance on one measure of fine motor coordination.

Finally, there’s a call from a woman whose daughter developed vasculitis after receiving her first dose of the vaccine. Vaculitis is the inflammation of the blood vessels. Except for some known infectious causes – like scarlet fever caused by certain strains of the strep throat bacteria – it is a rare autoimmune condition. Most of the time we can’t find the cause and some times we find that it is caused by diseases, including Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and an over reaction of the immune system after an infection such as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Antibiotics and many medicines can cause it. It can also happen after a vaccination that stimulates the immune system. We have seen vasculitis after the flu vaccine, for instance.

A certain number of people will develop vasculitis each year. We cannot know whether the vaccination caused this girl’s vasculitis.

I’m one of those doctors who prefers to wait a while before adopting new medicines. However, it’s not true that we don’t have much information on Gardasil. The vaccine has been tested for nearly eight years now, in the US, Canada, and Europe.

We should do our homework, especially before we spread information that will frighten others. Beware of shouters and conspiracy theories. Bad things happen and people do bad things, but most of the time it’s not so hard to check up on them. Check the sources, or better yet read several sources, and learn which ones are reviewed and reliable.

About bnuckols

Conservative Christian Family Doctor, promoting conservative news and views. (Hot Air under the right wing!)


3 thoughts on ““Homework” (fallacies about Gardasil)

  1. >I really enjoy your scholarly approach and honesty, regardless of where it takes you. What's your approach to those who embrace patient automomy as their defining medical ethic? I'd be interested in your opinion.Matt Anderson at

    Posted by MD Views | September 29, 2007, 2:55 am
  2. >Thank you. I love the computer, searches, and links!Non-maleficence should be the first principle. As individual physicians in the room with a patients, we first resolve to do no harm, then we do good, following the patient's autonomy as much as possible and then comes justice.I've been accused of having a patronizing streak. I prefer to call it "matronizing."You noted in one of your posts that what passes these days for ethics is anything but. My profile states that "bioethics" is too often the study of how we can kill whoever it is we want to kill. Sometimes it's justification for effectively enslaving some people – by claiming that other people or groups of people are more special, have a right to the actions, even involuntary actions, of others. That confusion causes problems for prolife doctors who won't refer or prescribe and for other docs who say, "this much and no more" at the end of life.The ethics can't be made up in crises or revised as we go along or new technology is invented. That's the problem, usually: we aren't prepared with a strong basis for ethics.(end sermon)I have enjoyed reading your blog, MDViews.

    Posted by | September 29, 2007, 6:27 am
  3. >People believe what they want to believe. Its the confirmation bias. There are many people who *want* to believe that Gardasil is dangerous, because this makes it easier to justify their political position.A long time ago, I debated with a jehova's witness. He had an array of junk-science studies at his disposal, and some false information, with which he argued that all blood-based technology was extremally dangerous. With his statistics he tried to show that transfusions killed thousands every year, and that few if any of those brought benefit to the patient. He said that haemophilics accepting clotting factors produced from human blood had been poisoned in the millions. He even produced rumors of a great conspiricy of blood companies, attacking scientists who threatened to bring down their empire of harmful quackery.JW theology prohibits donating or recieving blood or derived products*. He wanted to believe this was Divine Wisdom, and not nonsense that endangered the lives of its followers. So, turning to junk science, he found a way to justify it.* Its from a verse in genesis, which most denominations interpret as a ban on drinking blood.

    Posted by Suricou Raven | September 29, 2007, 2:56 pm

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