REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH by Lucy SullivanNews Weekly
Gardasil and fertility: are we sterilising our teenage girls?
, October 25, 2014
In 2008, universal vaccination of young teenage girls against the sexually-transmitted disease, human papillomavirus (HPV or genital warts), was introduced in Australia. The justification for this massive health intervention was that HPV has been associated with cervical cancer.
Most HPV infections do not lead to cancer, and the majority of infections resolve spontaneously (98 per cent within two years). The cancer association is only with very long-term or repeated and untreated infections.
It is not a debilitating or an acutely life-threatening disease in itself, unlike most other diseases that are targets of mass immunisation programs. Therefore it is important that HPV vaccination does not carry health risks in its own right that are as damaging in their way as the outcome it is meant to prevent. This should be decisive for its implementation and/or its continuation.
The possibility of a serious side-effect of this nature has recently emerged. In 2012, Drs Deidre Little and Harvey Ward, practitioners in the Bellingen/Coffs Harbour region of New South Wales, published a paper in the British Medical Journal Case Reports entitled, “Premature ovarian failure three years after menarche in a 16-year-old girl following human papillomavirus vaccination.”
The girl’s menstrual cycles had been well established but became irregular and scant after vaccination. On investigation, premature ovarian failure (POF) was diagnosed, a condition so rare in that age group that there are no firm figures for it, although it has been estimated at 0.01 per cent in women aged under 20. Its cause is mostly undiagnosed, but all relevant putative factors were investigated and excluded.
In 2013, the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology published a study by Serena Colafrancesco et al. (referencing Little and Ward), which reported three similar cases in teenage girls. Again, tests revealed “no pertinent abnormalities”, but “all three patients had experienced a range of common non-specific post-vaccine symptoms, including nausea, headache, sleep disturbance … etc.”.
These authors propose that the POF in these cases was an autoimmune response to HPV vaccination. That an autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome can be induced by adjuvants employed in the manufacture of a variety of vaccines is well recognised. An adjuvant is not an active ingredient of the vaccine, but is a chemical to which it is attached to facilitate its distribution within the body.
Aluminium is commonly employed despite, say Colafrancesco and her colleagues, “much evidence showing that aluminium in vaccine-relevant exposures can be toxic in humans”, and is the adjuvant in Gardasil, the HPV vaccine in use in Australia. Further, in the safety trials for Gardasil, aluminium was used as the placebo in the control group, thus eliminating the possibility of its emerging as a risk factor.
These authors also note that HPV vaccination has already been linked to several autoimmune diseases, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, other demyelinating neuropathies, systemic lupus erythematosus, pancreatitis and autoimmune hepatitis.
Since that first report, two further cases of POF in teenage girls after Gardasil vaccination have been identified in the Bellingen medical practice.
If the association of Gardasil vaccination and POV in teenage girls is valid, and whether the adjuvant aluminium is the relevant factor or some other, the link is made inaccessible to epidemiological investigation by what has become a relatively common medical practice if a teenage girl presents with menstrual irregularity or failure — namely, prescription of the contraceptive pill.
Little and Ward draw attention to the fact that their first case of POF after Gardasil vaccination would not have been identified if the girl had not declined the oral contraceptive initially prescribed for her amenorrhoea (i.e., an absence of menstrual periods).
This usage of the contraceptive pill is, of course, a medical nonsense, for it is not a cure. It does not reinstate a genuine cycle, but masks its absence. The contraceptive pill prevents ovulation, and the apparent menstruation is an artificial one, designed to imitate normality. The artificially-induced monthly period will only disguise the presence of POF.
Given the very low incidence of an HPV infection evolving into cervical cancer, one cannot but concur with the conclusion of both papers’ authors, that clinical trials for the safety of Gardasil should be resumed, with greater attention to its effects in humans and in the age groups primarily targeted.
Just as importantly, the medical profession should put its house in order in relation to the logic of its current prescribing practices with regard to amenorrhoea in young females. This is essential if the true facts of the matter, with its potentially devastating consequences for a generation of young women, are to be ascertained.
Lucy Sullivan, PhD, is an Australian social scientist. Her book, False Promises: Sixties Philosophy Against the Church: A Social Memoir Enhanced by Statistics, 1903-1993 (Windsor, NSW: Windrush Press, 2012), is available from News Weekly Books.