By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
On October 25, 2011, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) committee recommended the routine vaccination all 11 and 12 year old boys in the U.S. against human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide and the most common cause of cervical cancer. Although the vaccine has been approved for boys since 2009, the CDC has only promoted routine HPV vaccination for 11 and 12 year-old girls over the past five years. Now, since girls have not been getting vaccinated in the numbers expected (as of 2010, only one-third of girls in the U.S. had been immunized), the CDC advocates vaccinating all boys as a means of protecting unvaccinated girls; the agency also reasons that the vaccine will shield boys from developing HPV-related anal cancer.
Protecting Public Health or Fulfilling Pharmaceutical Goals?
Should we really trust CDC recommendations that all 11 and 12 year old children in the U.S. be vaccinated against HPV (the CDC asserts this age group has a better immune response to the vaccine than adults and is less likely to have already contracted HPV through sexual activity)? Before we get into the facts about HPV and cancer, consider that CDC and FDA incentives for promoting these vaccines may go beyond children’s health.
Vaccine approval and promotion by CDC and FDA committees have, in the past, been linked to financial interests. In 2000, during a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform hearing, Chairman Dan Burton announced that various members of FDA and CDC committees which recommend whether vaccines should be licensed and included in the childhood vaccination schedule had strong ties to pharmaceutical companies. Specifically, some committee members who voted in vaccine decisions owned stock in drug companies which made vaccines, some owned patents for vaccines under consideration, and many had conflicts of interest that had been waived (especially within the CDC).
Vaccines are big business. In 2009, the global vaccines industry was worth $24 billion, and its projected value in 2016 is $52 billion. While the vaccine market was once seen as low-profit, vaccines like Prevnar (which prevents Pneumococcal disease), as well as Gardasil and Cervarix (the two HPV vaccines) have brought in so much money that “big pharma” companies like Pfizer and AstraZeneca have begun investing in vaccines.
In addition to having influenced CDC and FDA vaccine advisory committees, pharmaceutical companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars impressing upon lawmakers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Big pharma has a big voice in government:Time magazine reported, in 2009, that registered drug lobbyists outnumber members of Congress by more than 2 to 1.
Under recent scrutiny are campaign contributions made by pharmaceutical companies to 2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry, the Texas governor who tried to mandate the HPV vaccine for all sixth-grade girls (the State Legislature overturned Perry’s executive order). Merck, manufacturer of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, for example, has donated nearly $30,000 to Perry’s campaigns since 2000. Merck and its subsidiaries have also, over the past five years, donated over $380,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association, of which Perry was Chairman in 2008 and 2011; the Association has given over $4 million dollars to Perry’s campaign since 2006, when Perry assumed a prominent role within it. CNN recently reported that three other pharmaceutical companies have donated more funds to Perry, and “substantially more money” to the Republican Governor’s Association, than Merck. To boot, Perry’s former chief advisor, Mike Toomey, was also a lobbyist for Merck at the time Perry issued his order mandating the HPV vaccine.
The unfortunate truth is, pharmaceutical companies have influenced enactment of laws, formation of CDC and FDA policies, direction of studies and physicians’ practices. Even without presumed connections to pharmaceutical companies, though, it seems logical to question the CDC’s vaccine guidance in light of other recent CDC recommendations.
The Hepatitis B (Hep B) Vaccine
In 1982, the Hep-B vaccine was introduced to help prevent the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in high risk adults. Since HBV is a bloodborne and sexually transmitted virus, adults at high risk include health care and safety workers who are exposed to blood on the job, sexually active people not in long-term monogamous relationships, prison inmates, injection drug users, men who have sex with men, people traveling to countries where hepatitis B infections are common, and people living in households with family members who have Hep B (while the sharing of toothbrushes and razors has been listed as means of transmission, HBV is not spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing, or by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses).
It is surprising then, at least as far as public safety is concerned, that in 1991, the CDC began recommending that all infants receive the Hep B vaccine as well as high risk adults. As infants can only acquire the virus during childbirth if their mothers have it and OBGYNs routinely test expecting mothers for HBV, why would it be necessary to vaccinate all infants?
Some people argue that all infants need to be vaccinated because, a few years later, they often get cut or scraped while playing with other children. Hence, there’s a perceived need to protect children from other children who might have HBV, particularly those born to people who have emigrated from countries with higher HBV infection rates (e.g. some countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, as well as Northern Canada).
The reality is, very few children actually have HBV. Admitting that adults have the highest rate of new infection and acute disease, the CDC acknowledges that, even before the Hep B vaccine was routinely administered to infants and children, less than 10 percent of all reported cases of HBV occurred in children under 10.What the CDC hangs its Hep B vaccine hat on, is the distinction between acute and chronic HBV infections, and the uncertainty of how many cases of chronic HBV originated in early childhood or infancy. Chronic HBV may not make itself known for decades, until a person experiences health complications due to liver damage. So, even though more adults than children get infected with HBV, according to the CDC, babies and young children who do become infected with the virus have a greater risk of developing a chronic infection.1
Is the percentage of children who get infected with HBV large enough to justify vaccinating all infants and young children? Do the benefits of vaccinating everyone outweigh the risks of vaccination?
According to a 1999 press release issued by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)2, data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) showed, in 1996, 872 children ages 13 and under experienced serious adverse events after receiving a Hep-B vaccination and 48 children actually died. To be classified as serious, an adverse event must be life-threatening or disabling, or have resulted in a visit to the emergency room or hospitalization. Severe autoimmune complications like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis and lupus-like symptoms are among disabilities people have suffered after HBV vaccine injections.
The number of actual adverse events associated with vaccinations is thought to be much higher than what is reflected on the VAERS web site. The CDC recognizes that the validity of VAERS statistics is limited by “underreporting,” and also asserts:
“[An] adverse event may be coincidental or it may have been caused by vaccination, however we cannot make any conclusions that the events reported to VAERS were caused by the vaccine.”
Hence, despite reports of serious adverse events scattered throughout the VAERS database, the CDC claims:
“The potential risks associated with Hepatitis B are much greater than the risks the vaccine poses. Since the vaccine became available in 1982, more than 100 million people have received Hepatitis B vaccine in the United States and no serious side effects have been reported.”
The H1N1 Vaccine
The following safety assurance given by the CDC about the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine alone provides reason to question the agency’s judgment. In 2009, the CDC advised that all pregnant women get the H1N1 vaccine. This captured the attention of many, since unborn children are highly vulnerable to health problems associated with both vaccines and diseases. On a FAQ page for patients, in response to, “Is the H1N1 seasonal flu shot safe for pregnant women?” the CDC merely stated:
“The seasonal flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. The 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine is being made in the same way and at the same places where the seasonal flu vaccine is made.”
On that same page, in response to, “Will the seasonal flu shot also protect against the 2009 H1N1 flu?” the CDC answered:
“Seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu are caused by different viruses. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against the 2009 H1N1 flu. Also, the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine will not protect against seasonal flu.”
Rather than explain that the H1N1 vaccine was proven safe for pregnant women and their unborn children through pre-testing (which it was not), the CDC made the haphazard analogy above.
In consideration of this kind of “guidance,” should we really place our trust in the CDC’s “science” when it comes to other routinely recommended vaccines like the HPV and influenza vaccines? Unfortunately, pediatric associations, pediatricians and state lawmakers already do, as shown by the increasing number of vaccinations children routinely receive.
When is Enough, Enough?
Since 1976, when children received 10 vaccinations prior to attending school, the number of vaccines on the Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule has more than tripled! The CDC currently recommends 12 vaccines given in several doses for all children and adolescents (there are more vaccines recommended for high-risk children). If each vaccine is taken as recommended, a child will receive 28 vaccines by the time s/he is 2 years old, 36 vaccines by the time s/he reaches 6 years of age, and 55 vaccinations by the time s/he is 18 years old.
Every vaccine burdens a child’s immune system and, depending on various adjuncts or preservatives used, carries the potential to harm developing nervous systems. In addition to live viruses, many vaccines contain neurotoxins like mercury (in Thimerosal) and aluminum, as well as carcinogens like formaldehyde. While most children’s immune systems can handle the ingredients in a few vaccinations, too many immunizations during the developmental years can potentially overload their immune and nervous systems.
Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, MD explains that exposing children to too many “immune-stimulating components” while their brains are actively growing can result in seizures, severe lethargy, weakness and behavioral problems such as agitation, depression, anger and other autistic behaviors due to brain inflammation and swelling. Additionally, the aluminum and mercury in vaccines can respectively lead to neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases. Excessive vaccination can also depress proper immune system function, leaving children at a greater risk of developing other persistent viral infections.
Each year, however, vaccine manufacturers continue to produce potentially lucrative new vaccines, and, after the FDA approves them, the CDC continues to recommend adding them to the already-excessive childhood vaccination schedule. The CDC assures society of the safety of individual vaccines, yet it fails to address the totality of all of these vaccinations on children’s health.
Before blindly accepting the CDC’s assertion that the HPV vaccines are safe, effective and even necessary, pediatricians, lawmakers and parentsmight want to consider the following facts about the HPV vaccine and the diseases it is intended to prevent, and ask themselves if the benefits associated with adding this vaccine to the mix really outweigh the vaccine’s potential risks…Could the HPV vaccine be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back?
Facts About HPV and Cancer
Human Paillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection, of which there are more than 40 different types (the CDC estimates that at least half of all sexually active people get one form of HPV or another during their lifetimes). The CDC reports that 90 percent of all people who contract HPV do not have any symptoms or experience health problems due to it. Of the 10 percent who do experience symptoms and/or health problems, some get genital warts, others may get warts in the throat, and some get cancer – primarily cervical; other much less common cancers attributed to HPV include cancer of the vulva, penis, anus, or back of the throat.
The types of HPV that cause cancer are not the same as the types that cause warts, which a physician can treat; hence the incidence of cancer due to an HPV infection is necessarily less than ten percent. The CDC estimates that 12,710 women will have developed cervical cancer in 2011 and 4,290 women will have died from it; the agency also attributes 6,200 new cases of cancers other than cervical cancer in women, and 7,500 new cases of various cancers in men, to HPV infections. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), anal cancer, which the CDC is now highlighting as a reason to vaccinate boys, will have afflicted an estimated 2,140 men in the U.S. in 2011 and resulted in 300 deaths; more men will have died of breast, than anal, cancer in 2011.
Noting that most women who get HPV do not develop cervical cancer, the ACS advises that getting a regular Pap test (once every 1 – 2 years at the OBGYN’s office) is “one of the best and proven” defenses a woman has against cervical cancer. Pap testing can reveal early changes in cervical cells which could lead to cancer; treatment is much easier when such changes are caught in the early stages. The ACS also states that “cervix cancer is rare in women who get their Pap tests,” and that“most cervical cancers are found in women who have not had Pap tests when they should.”
While the HPV vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, provide further protection against cervical cancer and other cancers associated with HPV (additionally, Gardasil is approved to prevent genital warts), these vaccines are not without potential health risks. Of the 40 million doses of Gardasil which had been administered by mid-September 2011, 20,096 adverse events were reported through the VAERS system (most common were fever, pain at the injection site and nausea). Eight percent of these adverse events were serious: 1,537 people suffered life-threatening illnesses, permanent disabilities, congenital anomalies, and/or were hospitalized, and 71 people died after receiving the HPV vaccine.
Despite the adverse events reported through VAERS and proven effectiveness of Pap testing, the CDC continues to maintain that the HPV vaccines are all “safe and effective,” that, “as with all vaccines, the benefits outweigh potential risks.” As it did with the Hep B vaccine, the agency disclaims any causal association between the HPV vaccines and adverse events reported through VAERS.
Remembering that the actual number of adverse events reported through VAERS is thought to be much higher than what is shown, how can we be sure that vaccinating all children and young adults is really the best option?
Routine HPV Vaccinations May Promote Complacency About Cancer
Not many people go to see an oncologist to prevent cancer, and not many general practitioners teach cancer prevention through lifestyle habits. Most often, medical professionals deal with cancer after it has been diagnosed. With the exception of one or two vaccines, cancer prevention through the following lifestyle habits continues to remains on the outskirts of conventional medical training and practice: eating a primarily anti-inflammatory diet, regularly engaging in moderate exercise, detoxifying and avoiding toxins, taking nutritional supplements, keeping the body and mind connected, and engaging in alternative therapies like acupuncture.
While the HPV vaccine can protect kids against a virus they can only get from engaging in sexual activity (a lifestyle practice, if you will), vaccinating against HPV to prevent cancer might promote a false sense of security about cancer prevention. The reality is, cancer is a multifactorial disease: it is not usually caused by one thing, but by a combination of factors. There are many aspects of daily life which can increase vulnerability to cancers of all kinds. Some of them include:
- Obesity / poor dietary choices – the ACS estimates that one third of all cancers are due to poor nutrition, weight gain and physical inactivity.
- Toxins in food:
- Pesticide exposure through conventionally grown fruits and vegetables
- Synthetic hormones, e.g. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) or Bovine somatotropin (BST) in dairy products
- Chemicals in processed food, e.g. nitrates in processed meats
- Artificial sweeteners like aspartame
- Some pharmaceutical drugs
- Exposure to ionizing and non-ionizing radiation (medical X-rays, CT scans, wireless technologies)
- Stress, unresolved anger / resentment
- Environmental toxins and toxins in personal care products such as sunscreen.
- Lack of moderate exercise (e.g. 30 to 60 minutes a day, several times a week)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Vaccinating children against viruses that can (but do not necessarily) cause particular cancers does nothing to address the many aspects of lifestyle which do contribute to other cancers. What about the 101,340 new cases of colon cancer, 232,620 new cases of breast cancer and 240,890 new cases of prostate cancer the ACS estimates will arise each year, which are caused, in part, by poor eating habits and exposure to toxins in the environment, food supply and personal care products?
It’s important to remember that no one can be vaccinated against cancer. Cancer prevention is about a lifetime of making anti-cancer lifestyle choices. Rather than subject their immune and nervous systems to yet another vaccine, why not teach pre-teens about HPV prevention through annual Pap smears, safer sex practices and anti-cancer lifestyle strategies? Side effects may include blushing cheeks, rolling eyes, or general disinterest…
1. Children infected with HBV who are 5 and under, for example, have a 30 percent chance of chronic infection, whereas only 3 to 5 percent of infected teenagers and adults will likely develop a lifetime HBV infection. Children less than one year of age who are infected have a 90 percent chance of developing chronic HBV.
2. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is a national, charitable, non-profit organization which aims to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to defend the informed consent ethic in medicine.
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