One More: USA Today Joins in Misreporting Gardasil

When the vaccine Gardasil was first introduced, the mainstream media wasted no time falsely touting it as a cure for cervical cancer. The dangerous side effects of Gardasil – including death -- were also ignored. Even though the side effects are now known, a March 18 article in USA Today by Liz Szabo worried about girls who are not receiving the vaccine.

In “Poorer Girls Not Getting HPV Vaccine for Cervical Cancer,” Szabo was confused in her first sentence and called Gardasil a “cervical cancer vaccine.” Actually Gardasil is not a vaccine for cancer; it’s a vaccine for HPV, which can cause cancer. But HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and, as many conservatives have argued, if a girl is not sexually active and has no plans to be until marriage, Gardasil is an unnecessary risk.

Of course, if Szabo has been paying attention to the mainstream media it’s easy to understand why she was confused. The Culture and Media Institute has reported on many examples of the media calling Gardasil a cancer vaccine. NBC Nightly News even had a segmented entitled “Cancer Vaccine Controversy.” CBS’s The Early Show stated that the, “top medical breakthrough [of 2006] has to be the cancer vaccine for cervical cancer, Gardasil.”

Szabo also complained that low-income girls were not receiving the vaccine, even though they are the ones who might “need it the most.” She stated, “Yet in Mississippi, where the vaccine could perhaps save the greatest number of lives, only 16 percent of teen girls in 2008 received the shot.” 

Save lives? CMI also previously cited a National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) study in February of 2009 that found that 29 known cases in which patients have died after receiving Gardasil. Szabo never mentioned a single one of those deaths. 

And it’s not just deaths that Gardasil causes. According to NVIC press release: “Nearly 90 percent of all Gardasil recipients and 85 percent of aluminum placebo recipients reported one or more adverse events within 15 days of vaccination, particularly at the injection site. Pain and swelling at injection site and fever occurred in approximately 83 percent of Gardasil and 73 percent of aluminum placebo recipients. About 60 percent of those who got Gardasil or the aluminum placebo had systemic adverse events including headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia. Gardasil recipients had more serious adverse events such as headache, gastroenteritis, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, asthma, bronchospasm and arthritis.”

Peter Bach of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center apparently didn’t see anything wrong with the side effects. Szabo wrote, “Though there's nothing wrong with wealthier girls getting the vaccine, Bach says, the low vaccination rates in poor states are ‘a failure.’”  What’s truly a failure is calling Gardasil a cervical cancer vaccine and not reporting all the side effects.