Valuable Vaccines

I’m having an interesting discussion with someone about the HPV vaccine based on this article that discussed a girl dying after given the vaccine. The fact that someone happened to die after being given the vaccine is not necessarily indicative of anything.

If 1000 or 100,000 people are given anything, even a placebo, some may die shortly thereafter for totally unrelated reasons. But people try to create a reason using a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. (I love using Latin.) “They died after getting the vaccine so the vaccine must be the cause.”

Of course they could also say, “he was wearing a red shirt when he died so red shirts are deadly.” B ut we all do know that would be incorrect because we all know people who have worn red shirts who have not died.

A later report indicates that she had an serious underlying medical condition that was the cause of death. This is why we do clinical trials and compare to placebo. If you give a shot to 1000 people, a fraction of them will have adverse effects, even with placebo. Simp;y because someone dies does not indicate the vaccine is the cause.

People use post hoc arguments all the time, along with selection bias, to ‘prove’ a point, such as this vaccine is bad. It is very easy to be fooled, which is why we run blinded trials where no one knows which is which. It is to remove the inherent bias any human being brings to a study.

From recent work (i.e. the FDA just had an advisory group examine the results from 2 clinical trials) adverse reactions (i.e. redness swelling, etc) are found in 0.4% of patients given the HPV vaccines versus 0.6% given a placebo.

But the effect on society of this vaccine could be tremendous. Cervical cancer could be eradicated in 50 years. Throat cancer, which more and more appears to be caused by HPV, could be impacted.

There may be some economic reasons to argue about the vaccine such as its cost. But I have seen little data to indicate that it is not safe and effective.

Technorati Tags: