By DR. RICHARD RUPP and BRIDGET HAWKINS

Dear Vaccine Smarts:

Have you heard anything about the HPV vaccine being linked to premature menopause? I vaccinate patients as part of my job as a nurse. What should I say to parents or friends who bring it up?

Lori
League City

Dear Lori,

We’d never heard of this until you asked. We reviewed the link you supplied and looked at other material from this group and the physician.

This form of reporting is typical of many anti-vaccine groups. The first warning sign is the banner on the website, “News that impacts your health that other media sources may censor.”

A cursory glance at the website reveals multiple articles about cover-ups and controversies surrounding licensed medications. About half of the medication reports speak to the “dark side” of several routine vaccines, not just the HPV vaccine, and of the conspiracy among pharmaceutical companies, governments and physicians to mislead the public.

There are also pictures of big syringes full of colored liquids with young girls cowering in the background.

But, just because the website is obviously biased doesn’t mean there isn’t any merit to this report. The article and accompanying video stated that a respected physician reported a link between HPV vaccination and premature menopause that was published in the reputable British Medical Journal Case Reports. They go on to state research on the vaccine was hastily performed and incomplete and vaccination should halt until the link is thoroughly explored.

It sounds reasonable enough, right?

Not really.

The case report is of one girl who had premature menopause after vaccination. Consider that many millions of people have received the HPV vaccine. Just because this girl got a disease sometime after vaccination does not mean that the vaccine caused it. (If she won the lottery after vaccination, would they claim the vaccine caused it?)

Teen girls who have never been vaccinated also develop the same rare condition. Review of data from large numbers of vaccinated teens and women have not demonstrated an issue with premature menopause or infertility.

The claim that the vaccine hasn’t been well studied just isn’t true.

Development of the vaccine began in the 1980s. The human trials began in the mid-1990s and took many years to complete. Well more than 40,000 volunteers participated in the studies before licensure. Believe it or not, it’s the most studied vaccine in human history.

Public perception of safety and effectiveness has been adversely affected by groups that continue to whip up controversy through misleading reports.

What are their motives?

Some see the vaccine as a threat to their religion or values because it is a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease. They worry the vaccine may promote sex outside of monogamous marriages. The physician who reported the case and is featured in the video has ties to several religious organizations. Her other writings demonstrate her political activism.

With so much information on the Internet, it can be hard to discern what is scientifically sound information and advice.

It helps to follow the money trail and see if the person writing the article has something to gain from expressing his or her opinion. The website link you provided sells anti-vaccine books.

So, if any friends or parents ask, tell them that it was just one case out of the millions of people vaccinated. There is absolutely no evidence the vaccine caused premature menopause in anyone.

Dr. Richard Rupp is a pediatrician and member of UTMB’s Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. Bridget Hawkins, Ph.D., is the assistant director of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. This column is supported by a UTMB President’s Cabinet Award to provide information about vaccines. Visit www.utmb.edu/scvd/vaccinesmarts for more information.