The Daily Mail have published an article about the HPV vaccine. You won’t be surprised to learn that the tone of the article is scaremongering – with the very real benefits of the vaccine downplayed and a focus on the hypothetical risks.
The article is headlined “Girl, 13, left in ‘waking coma’ and sleeps for 23 hours a day after severe reaction to cervical cancer jabs”. The sub-headings and first two paragraphs reinforce this impression that the girl had a reaction to the HPV jab(s). It then transpires that, contrary to the headline, sub-headings, and the assertions in the first two paragraphs, her paediatric consultant is “investigating potential links with the vaccine”. So the headline, sub-headings, and second paragraph of the article are all inaccurate and misleading.
The girl’s condition is referred to as “a mystery illness” but later identified as CFS (prevalence of which is thought to be around 20 per 100,000 among adolescents – see US study here: http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/publications/surveillance_studies/prevalence_adolescents.html). There is also a prominent quote from non-expert Jackie Fletcher who makes the unsupported assertion that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by vaccination.
Here are some comments on CFS and vaccination:
Appel, Chapman and Shoenfeld seem to think it is at least plausible that vaccination could be linked to CFS and call for further research, but state that: “Little is known about this issue. There are some reports on CFS occurring after vaccination, but few prospective and retrospective studies failed to find such an association” and point out that a working group of the Canadian Laboratory Center for Disease Control (LCDC) that was founded in order to examine the suspected association between CFS and vaccinations concluded that there is no evidence that relates CFS to vaccination.
A Norwegian study found “no statistically significant association between vaccination against meningococcal disease in teenagers and occurrence of CFS/ME”, and a double-blind, randomized study of the effects of influenza vaccination on the specific antibody response and clinical course of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome found that “no difference could be detected between immunized and placebo CFS patients in immunization side effects”.
The HPV sidebar plays down the seriousness of HPV infection: “most forms are harmless”; “Only 5-10 per cent of women infected with the virus face the risk of the disease developing into cervical cancer”; “This process usually takes 15–20 years”.
The section on “controversy” smuggles in a Daily Mail viewpoint attributed to ‘critics’: “Some critics also believe that the HPV injection can give teenagers a false sense of security, encouraging them to be more sexually active because they no longer have to fear cervical cancer.” Is there any evidence for this belief or is it simply an invention of the Daily Mail?
As well as the examples of misleading and inaccurate comments above, there is clearly a distorted picture of HPV and vaccination given by the piece as a whole. I therefore wish to complain on the grounds that the article is inaccurate, misleading, and distorted.