October 27, 2018 By Kendall Nelson

Ten years ago, my producing partners and I flew to Kansas to film with Gaby Swank, a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl who had suffered severe adverse reactions to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil. Our intention was to interview Gaby so she could tell her vaccine-injury story in our documentary, The Greater Good.

When we arrived at her house, her mother led us to a room where we found Gaby lying in bed with the lights off, chronically fatigued, muscles aching—wearing an “I Don’t Want to Be One Less” tee-shirt. The writing on Gaby’s shirt referred to an ad campaign created by the pharmaceutical company Merck. The ads targeted teenage girls, suggesting they could be “one less” victim of cervical cancer if they got the HPV vaccine.1 The television commercial that prompted Gaby to get vaccinated opened with a girl at a skateboard park wearing her baseball cap backwards, saying to the camera, “I could be one less.” It then went on to feature other enviable girls playing soccer, dancing and skipping rope to a “be one less” chant. The imagery was so alluring that neither Gaby nor her mother noticed the warnings embedded within the ad mentioning a long list of side effects, nor did they note the statement that Gardasil does not protect against all types of cervical cancer.

During the first year that Gardasil was on the market, Merck spent one hundred million dollars advertising their HPV vaccine to girls like Gaby. Unfortunately, what Gaby and her mother saw as a health benefit rapidly became a health nightmare after Gaby followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to get three doses of Gardasil. Once a varsity cheerleader and straight-A student, Gaby was no longer able to attend school, hang out with friends or walk long distances. She suffered two strokes, partial paralysis on the right side of her face and partial vision loss. She also experienced multiple daily seizures. Gaby would later be diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a disease that causes dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system; central nervous system (CNS) lupus, a disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues; cerebral vasculitis, a disease that causes inflammation of blood vessels that can restrict blood flow, resulting in organ and tissue damage; and fibromyalgia disorder, characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.

The first two HPV vaccines to go to market were Merck’s Gardasil vaccine in 2006 and GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) Cervarix in 2009. (Both are still marketed in other countries but are no longer in use in the U.S.,  having been replaced by Merck’s Gardasil-9 vaccine in 2017.) HPV vaccines were problematic since their introduction, despite the statement on the CDC’s website that “HPV vaccination gives your child safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against HPV cancers.”2 Moreover, statistics show that Gaby is far from an anomaly: to date, over fifty-eight thousand adverse reactions—including four hundred twenty-seven deaths—have been reported after HPV vaccine injections in the U.S. alone.3 What makes these numbers even more shocking is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) estimate that less than 1 percent of all vaccine-related adverse reactions are ever reported.4

Part of the problem is that many doctors don’t even know that there is a government system for reporting adverse events, called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).5 For those who do, the system is complicated and time-consuming to use.6 Another barrier to reporting adverse reactions is what doctors are taught in medical school—that vaccines are so safe, they may never encounter a vaccine reaction during their entire career. Therefore, doctors often do not realize that medical conditions arising after vaccination could be vaccine-related injuries.

A 2016 study out of Canada highlighted the under-reporting of vaccine injuries. The study looked at over one hundred ninety-five thousand girls who had received HPV vaccines. Within forty-two days of HPV vaccination, the girls experienced over twenty thousand emergency room visits (n=19,351) or hospitalizations (n=958). However, only one hundred and ninety-eight adverse events were reported.7

With statistics like these, one would think that the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture HPV vaccines and the authorities responsible for protecting public health by ensuring vaccine safety and efficacy would acknowledge that there is a problem, but instead of reevaluating HPV vaccines or pulling them off the market, these entities continually dismiss the onslaught of injuries as “coincidental” or “psychosomatic.”8 HPV-vaccine-associated injuries include (but are not limited to) muscle pain and weakness; encephalopathy (brain inflammation); rheumatoid arthritis; Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS); multiple sclerosis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); lupus; POTS; chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); primary ovarian failure (POV); strokes; seizures; facial paralysis; and sudden cardiac death.9 Tragically, many adolescents have been accused of “faking” their illnesses right up until their deaths.

Some efforts to minimize the evidence of serious adverse reactions to HPV vaccines may go so far as to constitute criminal activity. In 2016, Dr. Sin Hang Lee, a scientist and doctor, wrote an open letter of complaint to Dr. Margaret Chan, at the time the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Lee’s letter alleged scientific misconduct and cover-up of HPV vaccine dangers by global health officials.10 The source of information for Dr. Lee’s letter was a trail of emails and other communications between global health officials obtained via an Official Information Act request in New Zealand. The communications provided evidence that the same officials who were busy reassuring the public that HPV vaccines were safe knew that Gardasil and Cervarix were more likely than other vaccines to cause a potentially dangerous inflammatory response.

Specifically, WHO officials knew that the vaccines trigger the release of cytokines or proteins called tumor necrosis factors (TNFs), which can cause cell death.11 The release of TNFs can also result in a wide range of reactions such as tumor regression, septic shock (a serious whole-body inflammatory response that can result in dangerously low blood pressure and death) and cachexia (a wasting syndrome where the person loses weight, becomes fatigued and experiences muscle atrophy).12

Perhaps the grossest example of FDA misconduct of all time is the fact that Gardasil was fast-tracked.13 The time period from clinical trial to recommending the vaccine was only four years, even though most vaccines take an average of three years to develop and five to ten more for universal acceptance. Fast-tracking is a process meant to “facilitate the development of drugs which treat a serious or life-threatening condition.”14 It is a misuse of fast-tracking to apply it toward the licensure of a vaccine designed to eliminate a sexually transmitted virus with which the majority of sexually active men and women are infected at one point or another—a virus that 90 percent of infected individuals clear naturally from the body within two years.15

In addition to the potentially fraudulent fast-tracking of Gardasil, the vaccine was only studied in twelve hundred girls under the age of sixteen before its recommendation for universal use in all eleven- to twelve-year-old girls. No studies looked at Gardasil’s use in children with preexisting health problems or its use in combination with the other vaccines routinely given to American adolescents.16 Similarly, Cervarix, which was licensed in the U.S. in 2009, was studied for less than six years in fewer than twelve hundred healthy girls under the age of fifteen.

Typically, trials of new drugs compare one group that is given the drug against a “control” group that is given an inert (inactive) placebo, most often a saline solution. However, the clinical trials for Gardasil and Cervarix did not use a legitimate placebo in each of their control groups.17 Instead of receiving a saline solution, participants in several of the Gardasil control groups received aluminum in the form of a neurotoxic adjuvant present in all HPV vaccines. In the case of Cervarix, control group participants were given hepatitis A vaccine or other childhood vaccines—capable of causing adverse reactions—in lieu of a true placebo. Did this result in fraudulent conclusions? One might ask, how is it possible to detect adverse reactions properly without a legitimate control group?16

If you think Merck can be trusted with your daughter’s or son’s well-being, just look at its corporate history of engaging in criminal fraud with regard to other pharmaceutical products. For example, Merck made a “hit list” to “destroy,” “neutralize” and “discredit” doctors who criticized the company’s disastrous drug, Vioxx.18 Ultimately, Merck entered a guilty plea and agreed to pay a fine of nine hundred fifty million dollars.19 (This, of course, was not much of a fine considering that Gardasil accounted for more than two billion dollars in revenues in 2016 alone.20) Former Merck scientists have accused Merck in federal court of vaccine research fraud regarding the efficacy of its measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.21

When we interviewed Dr. Diane Harper, one of the world’s leading HPV experts and principal investigator for Merck’s Gardasil and GSK’s Cervarix clinical trials, she raised concerns about both vaccines and described Merck’s advertising campaign as “egregious and aggressive.” Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired neurosurgeon and health freedom advocate, has gone so far as to say that Merck’s widely aired One Less campaign was a “complete fraud.” Blaylock proclaimed, “It has never been shown that (Gardasil) prevents cervical cancer.”22 According to Harper, “The concept that our daughters are cancer deaths waiting to happen is just not accurate,” yet Merck has not been shy about insinuating just that.

Another fact important to understand, again explained by Harper, is that there are no data showing that HPV vaccines remain effective beyond five years, while a full fifteen years of immunity coverage are necessary to prevent cervical cancer. In Harper’s view, the moment Merck gained FDA approval for Gardasil, the company stopped studying the vaccine, performing no long-term safety monitoring.

What are the cervical cancer facts? According to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of the nearly 1.6 million diagnosed cancer cases (all cancers) and more than five hundred fifty thousand cancer deaths that occur in the U.S. annually, less than 3 percent involve chronic HPV-infection-associated cervical or other genital cancers in women and men.23 For the period from 2003 through 2007, the incidence rate for cervical cancer was 8.1 cases per hundred thousand women per year in the U.S. (versus upwards of forty per hundred thousand in high-incidence countries) and the mortality rate was 2.4 deaths per hundred thousand women per year (compared to fifteen or more per hundred thousand in high-mortality countries).24 While it may be true that some women who are chronically infected with HPV for many years and who do not promptly identify and treat precancerous cervical lesions may go on to develop cervical cancer and possibly die, it is also important to know that after Pap test screening became a routine part of health care for American women in the 1950s, cervical cancer cases in the U.S. dropped 74 percent—and the CDC recommends continued Pap tests whether women get the HPV vaccine or not.25

A study by researchers at the University of Texas looked at HPV vaccination data from 2007–2012. The results showed that young women twenty to twenty-six years of age who received the four-strain Gardasil vaccine were actually more likely than non-HPV-vaccinated women to be infected with high-risk nonvaccine strains of HPV ten years later.26 The implications of these results are sobering, suggesting that while the vaccine may have reduced infection with the four targeted HPV strains, “other, possibly more pathogenic, HPV viruses moved in to fill the void”; in other words, the vaccine “exposed the girls who took it to greater risk for HPV infection than those that did not take the vaccine.”27

Since 2017, Merck’s Gardasil-9 has taken the place of both Gardasil and Cervarix in the U.S. The CDC currently recommends Gardasil-9 for both females and males ages nine through twenty-six, administered using a two-dose or three-dose schedule and costing an average of two hundred ten dollars per shot. Merck is marketing Gardasil-9 as an “improvement” over Gardasil, claiming it will prevent 80 percent of all vulvar, cervical and anal cancers28 (up from the 65 percent for Gardasil). Unlike its predecessor, which targeted four strains of HPV, Gardasil-9 targets nine of the more than one hundred fifty known strains of HPV, most of which are harmless. Gardasil-9 also targets genital warts. However, the “new and improved” version of Gardasil is no prize. What Merck does not advertise is the fact that Gardasil-9 contains more than double the toxic aluminum content of the original vaccine and has no fewer reported side effects.

Merck followed its initial One Less campaign with its I Chose advertising campaign in 2008, which featured a variety of young women explaining why they decided to get vaccinated, ending with one woman explaining that her dreams don’t include cervical cancer. Then, a decade after Gardasil’s introduction, Merck shifted from One Less and I Chose to attempts to shame parents into getting their children vaccinated, playing on parents’ basic instinct to protect their children. (One could easily label the 2016 campaign as the Who Knew? campaign, with both boys and girls asking their parents in the television commercials, “Did you know—Mom, Dad?”)

Up until that point, the vaccine had not been heavily promoted to boys and young men, despite FDA approval for males in 2009. All that changed in 2016 when Merck began targeting all eleven- to twelve-year-olds, female or male. Oddly, not until 2018 did a Merck advertisement even mention how one contracts HPV (through intimate sexual contact). The newest Versed ad campaign aims to educate youth by telling them to “get smart about HPV” and get “vocal.”

Despite the huge amounts of money spent on HPV vaccine advertising, consumers in the U.S. apparently are not taking the bait. HPV vaccines have had a persistently low adoption rate. According to the CDC, as of 2016, fewer than half of seventeen-year-olds (49.5 percent of girls and 37.5 percent of boys) were up to date with the recommended HPV vaccine series,29 falling far short of the health agency’s 2020 goal for 80 percent of both girls and boys to be HPV-vaccinated.30

It’s not just U.S. citizens who are getting wise to HPV vaccination dangers. Several countries—including Japan,31 France32 and India33—have stopped recommending HPV vaccines and/or have filed lawsuits on behalf of HPV-vaccine-injured families. In Japan, Gardasil has become such a scandal that the country’s uptake rate is currently under 1 percent.34 In many European Union (EU) countries, HPV vaccine coverage rates remain “lower than expected,” and some EU countries make individuals who want the pricy vaccine pay for it themselves.35 In Ireland, a group of parents with Gardasil-injured children is formally known as “Regret.”36

In 2016, concurrent with the “Who Knew” campaign, Merck suffered a major blow as the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) sounded an alarm by releasing a statement expressing concerns about a potential connection between HPV vaccines and premature ovarian failure (POF) in adolescent girls.37 Since the licensure of HPV vaccines, reports to VAERS include forty-eight cases of ovarian damage, two hundred fifty-six cases of spontaneous abortion, one hundred seventy-two cases of amenorrhea and one hundred seventy-two cases of irregular menstruation believed to be caused by HPV vaccination in the U.S.38 That this is cause for concern is supported by a June 2018 study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health that looked at a database of more than eight million American women and found a 25 percent increase in childlessness associated with HPV vaccination.39 According to data from the CDC, more than 12 percent of American women—one in eight—have trouble conceiving and bearing a child.40

Other research has implicated aluminum in fertility problems. Dr. Christopher Exley, an aluminum expert at Keele University in England, examined sixty-two semen samples and found “unequivocal evidence” of high concentrations of aluminum, especially in the semen of men with low sperm counts.41 Another toxic ingredient found in Merck’s Gardasil vaccines is polysorbate 80, which has been associated with a myriad of health problems and has proven to cause ovarian toxicity in rats.42 Polysorbate 80 was used along with aluminum in some of Merck’s bogus “placebo” control groups in prelicensure studies.38

Despite all of the problems with HPV vaccines, U.S. politicians are increasingly trying to mandate HPV vaccines for school admission. In 2007, Governor Rick Perry of Texas signed an executive order that required HPV vaccination for all eleven- to twelve-year-old schoolgirls. Why? The CDC says it’s important to vaccinate people before they become sexually active, but perhaps Perry’s order had more to do with the fact that his former chief of staff was the leading lobbyist for Merck.43 Fortunately, the Texas state legislature overturned Perry’s order. Even so, Perry launched an unfortunate trend. Today, children in Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia must be vaccinated against HPV to go to school (unless they take a religious or philosophical exemption), and in California, minors do not need parental consent to get HPV vaccines. In its statement communicating concern about primary ovarian failure, ACPeds expressed opposition to HPV vaccine mandates, saying, “The College is opposed to any legislation which requires HPV vaccination for school attendance.”37

In fact, mandating any vaccine is unethical—whether for students, parent volunteers, health care workers or any other person—especially because vaccine manufacturers are virtually exempt from liability in the U.S. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986 made it almost impossible to sue pharmaceutical companies or those who administer vaccines if a person becomes vaccine-injured. Instead, that person must appeal to the government-run National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), which has a terrible reputation for financially compensating those injured or killed by vaccines. That said, the program has paid almost six million dollars to forty-nine Americans after the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found that Gardasil had injured the individuals.44

As of June 2018, we have something new to worry about: Merck has received an FDA “priority review” to expand Gardasil to women and men aged twenty-seven to forty-five years.45 Merck is pushing for expansion to this age group despite the fact that most adults have already been exposed to HPV by those ages. Merck itself writes, “Gardasil-9 has not been demonstrated to provide protection against diseases from vaccine HPV types to which a person has previously been exposed through sexual activity.”46

I’ve been in the vaccine awareness community for some time now. I’ve made a movie about the vaccine controversy; I’ve worked hard to educate people on the risks involved with vaccines; and I’ve fought against several hundred bad pieces of vaccine legislation over the past three years. In my experience, the HPV vaccine is the worst vaccine on the market. The truth is that HPV vaccines have injured and killed far more children than ever would have gone on to develop HPV-associated cancers without the vaccine.

For many, HPV vaccines are reminiscent of the thalidomide scandal of the 1960s, when doctors prescribed the drug to pregnant women to alleviate morning sickness. Unfortunately, thalidomide caused phocomelia (malformation of the limbs), affecting thousands of children worldwide and often resulting in death.

Dr. Bernard Dalbergue (former physician at Merck) predicted in 2014 that the Gardasil vaccine would become “the greatest medical scandal of all time.”47 Dr. Russell Blaylock likewise has concluded that the harm from HPV vaccines far exceeds any claimed benefits. According to Blaylock, “The general public is woefully unaware of the fact that vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin C, curcumin (turmeric), quercetin and many other natural nutrients and vitamins naturally prevent HPV and cervical cancer.”22 Attention to health and nutrition can address many of the factors that increase the risk of developing HPV-related cancers, which include smoking; long-term oral contraceptive use; a weakened immune system; co-infection with chlamydia or HIV; poor nutrition; deficiencies of vitamins C and B, carotenes and folate; heavy drinking; and chronic inflammation.

When women face only a 0.6 percent risk of cervical cancer and men face a 0.2 percent risk of rare anal and penile cancers, it seems irrational to continue using a vaccine with so many complications, let alone mandate the vaccine or expand the age groups covered by HPV vaccine recommendations. These vaccines have been plagued by controversy since their inception, causing more injury than any other vaccine in history. Despite an undeniable litany of adverse effects that includes death, the vaccines continue to be administered to millions of people without their fully informed consent. In addition, the HPV vaccines may well be worthless for their stated purpose—their heavy marketing as “cancer prevention” proceeds despite the fact that no long-term studies have ever been done to prove their efficacy. Blaylock says—and I agree—that “the entire vaccine program is based upon nonsense, fear and concocted fairy tales.” No amount of Merck’s clever advertising will convince me otherwise. Only unbiased, credible science could change my mind, and so far, that kind of science has not been done.

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18. Edwards J. Merck created hit list to “destroy,” “neutralize” or “discredit” dissenting doctors. Moneywatch, May 6, 2009.
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20. “Merck announces fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 financial results.” http://investors.merck.com/news/press-release-details/2017/Merck-Announces-Fourth-Quarter-and-Full-Year-2016-Financial-Results/default.aspx.
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27. http://ipaknowledge.org/Maryland-HPV-Letter.php.
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29. Walker TY, Elam-Evans LD, Singleton JA et al. National, regional, state, and selected local area vaccination coverage among adolescents aged 13-17 years—United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66(33):874-882.
30. McCabe C. Federal goal is to vaccinate 80% of boys and girls against HPV by 2020. The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 10, 2014.
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32. “Sanofi sued in France over Gardasil vaccine.” https://finance.yahoo.com/news/sanofi-sued-france-over-gardasil-vaccine-174058600—finance.html.
33. Chamberlain G. “Judges demand answers after children die in controversial cancer vaccine trial in India.” Daily Mail, Jan. 13, 2015.
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35. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Introduction of HPV vaccines in European Union countries—an update. Stockholm: ECDC; 2012.
36. Gartland F. HPV vaccine support group concerned at side-effects. The Irish Times, May 22, 2015.
37. “New concerns about the human papillomavirus vaccine.” https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/health-issues/new-concerns-about-the-human-papillomavirus-vaccine.
38. McGovern C. Vaccine boom, population bust. Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, July 6, 2018. http://info.cmsri.org/the-driven-researcher-blog/vaccine-boom-population-bust.
39. DeLong G. A lowered probability of pregnancy in females in the USA aged 25-29 who received a human papillomavirus vaccine injection. J Toxicol Environ Health A 2018;81(14):661-674.
40. “Infertility.” https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm.
41. Exposure to aluminum may impact on male fertility, research suggests. ScienceDaily, Oct. 21, 2014.
42. Gajdová M, Jakubovsky J, Války J. Delayed effects of neonatal exposure to Tween 80 on female reproductive organs in rats. Food Chem Toxicol 1993;31(3):183-190.
43. “Rick Perry’s ties with Merck run deep.” http://www.kbtx.com/home/headlines/5546651.html.
44. “HPV vaccine.” https://www.drugwatch.com/vaccines/hpv/.
45. “FDA grants priority review to Merck’s supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for GARDASIL 9 in women and men ages 27 to 45 for the prevention of certain HPV-related cancers and diseases.” https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180613005477/en/FDA-Grants-Priority-Review-Merck%E2%80%99s-Supplemental-Biologics.
46. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/biologicsbloodvaccines/vaccines/approvedproducts/ucm426457.pdf.
47. “Merck’s former doctor predicts that Gardasil will become the greatest medical scandal of all time.” http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/mercks-former-doctor-predicts-that-gardasil-will-become-the-greatest-medical-scandal-of-all-time/.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2018.
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About Kendall Nelson

Kendall Nelson, is a producer, director and activist who co-produced The Greater Good, an award-winning film that explores the controversy of vaccinations. She serves the Weston A. Price Foundation as a vaccine consultant and activist, generating action alerts and articles on vaccine issues and legislation. She is a proud member of the International Women’s Forum, which works to build better global leadership across careers, continents and cultures by connecting the world’s most preeminent women of significant and diverse achievement.

By فاطمة عيسى

I aim at raising awareness about vaccine injuries in ME. I established novax.org, launched a petition to stop compulsory vaccination, and created a voluntary AVEARS: Arabian Vaccines Adverse Event Reporting System.