HPV has continued to draw negative attention through several media outlets. A video has been making the rounds on Facebook and Katie Couric presented a very slanted view of the vaccine on her talk show. Both incidents increase the fear and mistrust of this important vaccine.
A video from Jenny Thompson of the Health Sciences Institute was widely circulated on Facebook and other platforms stating that Gardasil (an HPV vaccine) is causing deaths in women. The video focuses on the political and moral issues of the HPV vaccine and does not use any sound science. Snopes.com, a website dedicated to finding the truth on the Internet released several statements verifying the false origins of the video.
Katie Couric has long been known as a trusted voice in the media, and is perhaps best known for her on-air colonoscopy in 2000 after losing her husband to colon cancer. However, her recent show, “The HPV Vaccine Controversy” followed in the destructive footsteps of Jenny McCarthy. Couric shared the story of a young woman who died 18 days after receiving her final HPV shot, but as Joanne Bamberger writes, “…it created a faux controversy that could put young girls across the country at risk.”
Bamberger further points out that the show kept most of the science about the vaccines’ safety and efficacy on their website. And while Couric’s own daughters have been vaccinated for HPV, by asking the question of whether the vaccine is safe, she validates parents fears and neglects the dangers of parents opting out of vaccines for their children.
Even more disappointing is the news that producers from Couric’s show had all of the facts, yet chose to ignore sound science. Seth Mnookin of MIT had several exchanges with the producers prior to the show on the dangers of declining vaccination rates. Mnookin points out that more than 25,00 new cancers attributed to HPV occur every year in the United States and that 12,000 of these are cervical cancer in females. He also notes that a study recently found no link to short or long-term health problems in 296,000 girls who received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine.
“So did Couric and her producers downplay the real – and uncontroversial – information about vaccines to boost a fake controversy just to boost ratings? …I can’t help wondering whether that’s exactly what happened, and how many women will pay the price,” Bamberger concludes.
Every year, 14 million new people are infected with HPV. The HPV vaccine is the safest and best method we have to decrease that number. Those with concerns about the vaccine should consult their doctor instead of relying on the media.