What You Need to Know About the HPV Vaccine

HPV Vaccine

Questions about HPV and whether getting the HPV vaccine will protect you and your children from getting cervical, throat, and other cancers are on the forefront of many people’s minds. The added interest is due in part to Michael Douglas’s announcement that his throat cancer was caused by the HPV virus, which he contracted while having oral sex. (More on this in a minute.) It is also August, and in the U.S., parents have to ensure that their children’s vaccines are up-to-date, because without them the children will be barred from attending school in the coming year. The fear and hysteria—and paperwork—around this issue make me doubt whether our society will ever be able to see the HPV vaccine issue objectively.

So let’s start with an important and irrefutable fact. The HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix do not prevent cervical cancer or any other type of cancer. They may protect you from contracting some strains of HPV for a period of time. Gardasil is genetically engineered to target the four most common strains of HPV known to be associated with cervical cancer, although there are 14 strains that are also implicated. (There are actually over 100 known HPV strains.) Cervarix targets fewer cervical-cancer-causing strains, but seems to offer better protection from genital warts than Gardasil.

Both vaccines also protect against anal and penile lesions to some extent, which is one reason why HPV vaccines are being heavily marketed to boys and young men.  But even a recent, highly-touted study that suggests that the rate of HPV lesions has decreased because of the vaccine is seriously flawed. The study included girls who had never had sex and also girls who had not been vaccinated!1

I am not a fan of vaccines, and have been particularly cautious about the HPV vaccines. I’ve written extensively about the fatal and debilitating side effects of Gardasil (and provide some recent data below). And since their approval in 2006, nothing has convinced me that the benefits of the HPV vaccine outweigh the risks—which are significant.2

And now I’m troubled by another aspect. Did you know that women require a booster shot every five years for Gardasil and every seven years for Cervarix? Or that no one seems to know whether the HPV vaccines provide coverage to males for more than two years? Yet, the pharmaceutical companies along with the mainstream medical community tout these vaccines as if they provide long-term protection.

A Little Perspective

Let me put the HPV/cervical cancer risk in perspective. According to the CDC, there are 9,710 new diagnoses of cervical cancer in the U.S. per year and 3,700 deaths, on average. Of these, about 70 percent are related to HPV. I say “related” because when a person’s natural immunity fails to clear HPV from the system, there is an immune problem, not an HPV problem. This, in combination with his smoking and alcohol habits, is why Michael Douglas was unable to clear the virus from his system (in my opinion). So that narrows it down to 6, 790 cases. Most of these (but not all) could be prevented through regular pap smears.

The death rate from cervical cancer in the U.S. is 3 out of 100,000 women. The rate of serious adverse events from Gardasil is about 3.4 per 100,000 doses.

If you really want to protect against cervical cancer, do these five things:

1. Boost your immunity and adopt lifestyle habits that support your health overall.  This includes making sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. Studies show that those with optimal vitamin D levels cut their cancer risk (all causes) in half!

2. Get regular pap smears—even if you’ve had the vaccine. A yearly pap is no longer recommended for most. Every three-five years is sufficient. Women who have had the vaccine can still contract cervical cancer.

3. Practice safe sex. Use a condom, and talk about health concerns with your partner.

4. If you’re already infected, don’t get an HPV vaccine! Remember—your own immunity will likely clear that virus from your system within two years.

5. If you still plan to vaccinate, question the guidelines. Since Merck received FDA approval in 2006, they have marketed Gardasil to nine-year-old girls. Recently, they began marketing to eleven-year-old boys. It makes no sense to give your child a proven harmful substance to protect her from something she likely won’t even come in contact with for several years.  I agree with HPV vaccine expert Diane Harper, M.D., who points out that most HPV is contracted in young adults between the ages of 16 and 26, which is the optimal time for vaccination if you’re going to do it at all. (Dr. Harper was one of the principal investigators in the initial Gardasil trial.)

Bottom Line

About 98 percent of HPV infections will resolve on their own within two years. (This is the reason why the American College of OB/GYN changed their pap smear recommendations to begin at age 20 instead of when a girl first became sexually active.) I agree with Diane Harper, M.D., who put it this way, “This is a sobering reality. Would a parent accept such a rate of serious adverse events if the same cancer prevention can occur with continued pap screening? Is there any acceptable level of risk of serious adverse events, including death, to prevent genital warts?”3 Women and girls deserve better. So, forego the vaccine!

Follow Dr. Christiane Northrup on Facebook, Twitter, at www.drnorthrup.com, and by listening to her weekly Hay House Internet radio show Flourish!

Footnotes:

[1] Mercola, J.,Oncology Dietitian Exposes Fraud in CDC’s HPV Vaccine Effectiveness Study, July 16, 2013.

[2] As of August 13, 2012, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received 119 reports of death following HPV vaccination, as well as:

•    894 reports of disability
•    517 life-threatening adverse events
•    9,889 emergency room visits
•    2,781 hospitalizations

Those adverse reports started coming in shortly after the vaccine was fast-tracked. In August of 2009, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that the U.S Government has received more than 12,000 reports of adverse events associated with Gardasil immunization—72 of them considered serious, including 32 deaths. (B. A. Slades, et al, Postlicensure safety surveillance for quadrivalent human papilloma recombinant vaccine, JAMA, 302:7, August 19, 2009, pps 750-57. See also http://www.nvic.org/Vaccines-and-Diseases/HPV.aspx.

In July of this year, the Japanese government officially withdrew its support for the HPV because of the large number of adverse events associated with it.

[3] Death After Cervarix Propels HPV Vaccination Headlines Again, Medscape, September 30 2009: updated October 1, 2009, Available online at www.medscape.com/viewarticle/709718.

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  • Kate Miller

    I don’t want to offer any judgment on this article, but just add a few comments.
    1) Condoms do *not* offer protection against the HPV virus. It is still wise to use them to protect against the many other STDs, but do not forego pap smears thinking that you are protected from the HPV virus by using condoms.
    2) Your immune system may be impaired even if you lead a healthy lifestyle. Drinking and smoking may decrease your body’s chances of naturally ridding itself of the virus, but just because you lead a healthy lifestyle, do not automatically assume that you will be fine. Get regular checks.

    Stay well!