[BPSDB] I have written to the Daily Mail to protest at their scaremongering anti-HPV vaccine story.
Concerns over safety of cervical cancer vaccine after 1,300 girls experience side-effects
I write to express my concern about the misleading story that appeared under the above headline. The story seems intended to give the impression that there are widespread adverse reactions to the vaccine. A closer examination of the facts shows that this is not the case.
The association of the recorded symptoms with the vaccine is a classic case of confirmation-bias. One could just as easily conclude, from the information provided, that the vaccine prevents anorexia nervosa: about one girl in a thousand suffers this to some degree but according to your writer one girl in 700,000 experienced “anorexia” – a reduction of 99.86%! I do not think the vaccine actually has this effect but this factoid illustrates the fallacy of assuming because event B follows event A, then A caused B.
I might add that “anorexia” merely means “loss of appetite” and does not mean the illness “anorexia nervosa”. Your writer’s use of the word “anorexia” was thus misleading.
Finally, 1300 out of 700,000 reporting (mostly minor) symptoms is a very small proportion. Over 99.8% reported no adverse symptoms at all.