The Daily Mail appears to be attempting to undermine the HPV vaccine program by means of an anecdote and the post hoc fallacy.
On Monday the front page carried the headline:
Girl, 13, left in ‘waking coma’ and sleeps for 23 hours a day after severe reaction to cervical cancer jabs
Leaving aside the fact that “waking coma” is a contradiction in terms, the writer is guilty of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. This is a logicians way of describing the false assumption that, because event B came after event A, then A must have caused B. Sunrise follows the ringing of my alarm clock most mornings but that does not mean that the ringing of the alarm causes sunrise.
The article goes on to say that of “the four million vaccinations carried out over the programme’s first two years, there were 4,445 reported side effects.” Most of these were minor but it is said that “There were four cases of Guillan-Barre Syndrome, which can lead to paralysis. Although the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency notes: ‘There is no evidence that the vaccine has increased the frequency of GBS above that expected to occur naturally in the population’.” In other words, there would have been four cases of GBS if the four million girls had not been vaccinated.
The total number of reported side-effects amounts to one per 900 girls vaccinated. When I fisked a previous anti-HPV vaccine scare story by the Mail, there were 1300 reported cases of side effects from 700,000 girls vaccinated, a rate of about one per 640 girls vaccinated. Clearly the already low rate of side effects is decreasing yet further.
Thye article does mention the reason for the vaccination program – prevention of cervical cancer deaths – but attempts to play it down by saying:
Only 5-10 per cent of women infected with the virus face the risk of the disease developing into cervical cancer.
This process usually takes 15–20 years.
Percentages are all very nice but what consequences do these lead to?
According to Cancer Research UK, there were 957 deaths from cervical cancer in the UK in 2008. Even the Mail admits that the vaccine cuts the risk of cervical cancer by about 70 percent. So had the vaccine been available in the late 1980s that would have meant 670 fewer deaths in 2008, 670 fewer grieving families. The Mail does not mention this. Instead we have Jackie Fletcher of the discredited anti-vaccination group JABS demanding that the vaccine be abandoned until it can be established beyond doubt that it is safe. If she means beyond her doubt, that means banning it forever since as her conduct in helping promulgate the MMR hoax – which resulted in a measles epidemic – made clear, she clings to antivaccination arguments such as Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulant ‘research’ even though they have lost all credibility.
If the Mail succeeds in scaring people away from the HPV vaccine, when a future Parliamentary Committee examines the reasons why there are far higher rates of cervical cancer in Britain than among our European neighbours will Paul Dacre’s successor claim it is an “urban myth” that the Daily Mail is against the HPV vaccine?