One Less reputable local news source

I really hope Express Watch doesn’t turn into a weekly feature here. I may have to just stop reading entirely, which makes me sad.

But this week’s feature story is the fourth poorly-researched hit piece in a row, and it’s making my blood boil. The HPV vaccine isn’t my beat, but local media sort of is, and I was floored by the level of irresponsibility here.

If you didn’t read “One Less,” don’t bother. It’s mostly about a young college student who died from a pulmonary embolism a few weeks after receiving her first dose of Gardasil, Merck’s new HPV vaccine. Throughout the story, the author inserts narratives from young women detailing their adverse reactions to taking the vaccine – pain, numbness, in one case, hallucinations. Although the story includes the occasional reassurances from researchers about the vaccine’s safety, there is no testimony from any young women who have taken the vaccine without complication, and the clear message is that the Gardasil is dangerous, and if you take it, you are likely to faint, have seizures, develop Guillian-Barre, and maybe even die.

The story relies on nothing more than idle speculation to make its case. There is literally not a single medical professional quoted in the entire article who raises concerns about the side effects of Gardasil. The story’s primary source for its assertion that Gardasil killed this girl is her mother. The story’s only other source for claims about adverse effects of the drug is a Washington-based conservative think tank.

Now, just because Judicial Watch is a right-wing pressure group doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily wrong about everything. But at the very least it’s worth noting that literally the only semi-official support you can provide for the thesis that Gardasil is dangerous comes from an organization that also advocated against the FDA’s approval of selling Plan B over the counter, the FDA’s approval of RU-486, and for the “partial-birth abortion ban” (PDF!).

But according to researcher Dee Grothe of the Washington foundation Judicial Watch, who read nearly 4,000 of the reports, the remaining 25 percent involved more serious issues, including paralysis, convulsions, and circulatory problems. Grothe says the surveillance database now contains eleven Gardasil-related death reports, including the story of a woman who died of a blood clot three hours after getting the vaccine and a healthy twelve-year-old who died in her sleep three weeks later.

11 deaths is tragic. And obviously they all warrant investigation. But until they are investigated, there is no logical reason to draw a causal connection between Gardasil and the deaths of 11 people who have taken the drug when more than 5 million doses (PDF!) have been distributed.

But the story keeps pushing:

But why would a healthy nineteen-year-old girl suddenly throw a huge clot?

I don’t know. Maybe because she was taking a medication that has an extensively documented history of causing blood clots and pulmonary embolism? The reporter acknowledges this, but then concludes the sections with:

But at Judicial Watch, Grothe shares Sonner’s fears. “I saw enough cardio-related reactions,” she said. “So it is a little bit concerning, especially if used with birth control, which also has whole range of side effects.”

Again, Grothe is not a doctor, she’s a program manager for an organization that has opposed this vaccine from the getgo.

Okay. It’s a little unfair to say that Grothe is the only source cited in the story. The author also cites a trashy Australian tabloid TV show:

According to the Australian television news magazine Today Tonight, the reactions include seizures and paralysis.

Come on.

Look, I am far from qualified to make any judgments about the safety of Gardasil. And I’m incredibly sympathetic to anyone who has had to deal with unanticipated adverse reactions to prescription medication, having been a victim of a horrible one myself in the past. Truth be told, I’m actually one of those crazy people who doesn’t trust doctors or medicine or drug companies for no good reason. Of course, I’m allowed to go about my own life irrationally fearing the entire medical profession and it isn’t going to hurt anyone except for me.

But it is downright unethical for a widely circulated newspaper to run lengthy fearmongering stories about life saving drugs in the absence of a shred of evidence or medical opinion supporting those claims. How many women are going to read this story and not get the shot, or not let their daughters get the shot as a result? Every single one of those girls will now be at risk for 100% preventable cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. It’s disgusting.

And on top of everything else, I have to say that it makes me really sad to see the Express so wanting for content that they’re reduced to recycling stories that ran weeks ago in other publications.

9 thoughts on “One Less reputable local news source

  1. bj

    that makes me so sad! i’ve had the gardasil vaccine, even though it may not do much for me (i’m above the target age by a fair bit), but i would highly recommend any sexually active women, particularly young ones, please get it! i had no adverse reactions, just another shot. dorky express.

  2. Eric

    Despite your (in retrospect, quite good) advice to not read the article, I did read it. This is extremely irresponsible reporting. It was not objective, and the little story narratives that appeared periodically gave this article the feel of fictional flashbacks, rather than a solid piece of journalism. It seems that drug conflicts could well be central to explaining at least some of these side effects, and they received little more than passing notice in the article. Cervical cancer is one of those rare cancers where you can actually take big steps yourself towards preventing it. Having gone through cancer treatments myself (though obviously not for cervical cancer), I speak from personal experience when I say it’s something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. If someone is in a position to prevent themselves from contracting cancer, that absolutely should weigh very heavily in the mind of whoever is considering the HPV vaccine. The fact that this crucial point barely made its way into the Express piece is unacceptable.

  3. Ilena Rose

    There is an enormous Vaccination Public Relations Campaign that is centered in several places, the APA and the Healthfraud / Quackwatch media teams, aka as the Snake-oil Team.

    http://breastimplantawareness.org/snake-oil.htm

    They use every trick of the trade, infiltrate blogs, Wikipedia and other medium with the pro-vaccination propaganda.

    They blame the deaths and thousands of immediate ill effects on everything but the vaccination, and trivialize them … while concurrently using hysterical rants to scare people into believing they ‘need’ this unproven vaccine.

    Research has shown that women are miscarrying after this drug.

    Research has shown too that women already being HPV+ will become sick after this vaccination.

    Check out this blog to see the billion dollar Merck PR plan.

    http://ilenarose.blogspot.com/2007/07/politics-pr-of-cervical-cancer.html

  4. Ilena Rose

    A very good resource of the non vaccination industry science can be found at:

    http://nvic.org/

    Parents need to realize that selling vaccinations is a very, very profitable business. Merck alone (one of many Vac Sellers) had a net income in 2006 of over $4.5 BILLION dollars.

    If you’d like to do research yourself, there is a massive amount of information at this website:

    http://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/index.html

    It is estimated that only around 10% of adverse events get reported …

    The internet Vaccination Promotion group … who call themselves “Snake-oil Vigilantes” … viciously attack and sue doctors and activists who believe in vaccination harm awareness. On Usenet, blogs, and Wikipedia, you will see them working in tandem to claim we concerned about vaccination harm “hate children” and spreading verbatim industry propaganda.

    http://www.BreastImplantAwareness.org/QuackWatchWatch.htm

  5. Concerned MD

    A patient of mine pointed out this story to me. Please keep in mind that the National Vaccine Information Center is a anti-vaccine group. It is not a source of unbiased information.

    A much better and much less biased group is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal health agency based in Atlanta. Go to http://www.cdc.gov and search for “hpv vaccine safety.” The first few “hits” are the recent information about this vaccine, including information about blood clots and this vaccine.

    No vaccine has been assoicated with miscarriages. Unfortunately miscarriages are quite common and 1 out of 4 pregnancies will end this way. The original data for this vaccine is in the “package insert” and can be found at http://www.fda.gov/CBER/label/gardasilLB.pdf. The pregnancy information is on page 9 (9/15).

  6. Ilena Rose

    Sorry MD, your link didn’t work for me.

    What I did find, however, in the FDA pages on Gardasil and pregnancy, was this:

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/06/transcripts/2006-4222t1.pdf
    Read p 64 (from May, 2006)
    Excerpt: And in our clinical program, we required women to under-go urine pregnancy testing because the vaccine hadn’t been tested in pregnant women.

    ~~~
    I’d further like to add that NVIC.org is “anti-vaccination” based on first and thousands of second hand experiences of vaccination harm. Merck and their massive PR campaign however, have profits in mind … to the tune of $4.5 BILLION in income in 2006. NVIC.org’s goal is to raise awareness to the very real dangers of vaccinations.

    ~~~~

    As to the product label … who receives and reads this ? Are families given information BEFORE the vaccinations? I disagree that adequate testing has been done to guarantee women that there is no association with miscarriages and Gardasil and would appreciate the “concerned MD” post studies that so indicate this as he claims.

    I would hope that ALL “concerned MD’s’ would read this document … I’ll provide just a small excerpt:

    Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA March 7, 2007
    http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/DOCKETS/07p0210/07p-0210-ccp0001-01-vol1.pdf

    8) Injection of HPV vaccines into women who have concurrent vaccine-relevant HPV type infections evidenced by sero-positive and PCR-positive tests may increase the risk, by about 44.6%, of developing high-grade precancerous lesions in the cervix
    [14] .

    Thank you.
    Ilena Rosenthal
    http://ilenarose.blogspot.com
    Health Lover