Gardasil: Another unforced error

I'm not antivaccination, but...
Lynne “I’m not antivaccination” McTaggart, the antivaccinationist editor of WDDTY and controller of its Facebook page, has been bitten before by quoting  Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System data out of context without understanding what it means.

Having had to defend her scaremongering, she has found a source that repeats the figure she misinterpreted first time round, allowing herself a second opportunity to look like a fact-blind antivaccinationist harridan.

If there’s one thing Lynne McTaggart can’t seem to resist, it’s an opportunity to repeat a mistake!

There is a saying attributed to George SantayanaW which goes, more or less: Those who do not learn from the past, are condemned to repeat it.

We’ve pointed out elsewhere that WDDTY’s reaction to anybody bringing errors to their notice is to howl abuse. Which is a shame, because the gigantic howler in their estimates of harms caused by Gardasil was indeed brought to their notice.

Today on Facebook we see this:


The number 1,671 may look familiar to you. It’s the number Lynne McTaggart originally used when discussing those “killed” by the Gardasil vaccine. In her response to criticism of this egregious and long-debunked scaremongering, she used the number 68, alluded to in the Facebook post.

And now using a secondary source drawn from exactly the same VAERS database that gave the original erroneous figure, and let to such condemnation that she felt compelled to post her revised estimate of 68 (which is of course nearly the same as 1,671 which is in turn exactly the same as 1,700), she repeats the original erroneous figure.

Now, I know it’s ridiculous to expect an antivaccinationist and homeopathy believer to understand why the post hoc fallacy is fallacious. But once it’s been pointed out in great deal, you sort of hope that a reasonably intelligent person would at least remember that the figure 1,671 was a spectacular own goal.


But there’s more. This Facebook post has referenciness. It is sourced from the catchily-titled Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescent Girls, 2007–2012, and Postlicensure Vaccine Safety Monitoring, 2006–2013 — United States, a document widely cited by skeptics in rebuttal to McTaggart’s fearmongering.

McTaggart says:

Reports are classified as ‘serious’ if they include one or more of the following, said the CDC: hospitalization , prolongation of an existing hospitalization , permanent disability, life-threatening illness, or death.

The source says:

Among the 7.9% of HPV4-related VAERS reports classified as serious, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, syncope, and generalized weakness were the most frequently reported symptoms.

Syncope is fainting, and that seems to be one of the more common adverse events, even occurring where placebo injections are used – it’s possibly related to a phobic reaction to needles, more likely to the perceived drama stoked up by antivaxers.

But WDDTY’s footgun is double-barrelled. In response to Andy “Quackometer” Lewis’ pointing out the error, and the number of people at risk of cervical cancer, McTaggart posted this gem:


That figure of 4,000. I wonder where that comes from? It looks like a classic piece of proctomancy because as the source says:

Approximately 79 million persons in the United States are infected with HPV, and approximately 14 million will become newly infected each year (4). Some HPV types can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer among women; penile cancer among men; and anal and some oropharyngeal cancers among both men and women (4). Other HPV types can cause genital warts among both sexes (4). Each year in the United States, an estimated 26,200 new cancers attributable to HPV occur: 17,400 among females (of which 10,300 are cervical cancer) and 8,800 among males (of which 6,700 are oropharyngeal cancers). (source)

There are two possible conclusions from this:

  1. Lynne McTaggart is functionally illiterate and innumerate.
  2. Lynne McTaggart is so blinded by hatred of vaccines that she doesn’t actually care what the facts are.

I can’t think of a third possibility.

For the avoidance of doubt:

  • VAERS is a highly conservative system. It records every adverse event that follows, in time, a vaccination.
  • 68 deaths have been registered to date following HPV vaccination, these include drownings, heart attacks, car accidents and so on.
  • To date, after 56,000,000 doses administered to millions of young women, no death has been unambiguously proven to be caused by the vaccine.
  • In 2010 (the last year for which figures are currently available), 11,818 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,939 died from it.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that the HPV vaccine causes thousands of young women to be hospitalised or die?

Because it’s wrong. 

Why don’t doctors tell you that only 4,000 new cervical cancer diagnoses are made every year?

Because the real figure is three times that in the US and over half a million worldwide, making it the third most common cancer in women and seventh most common overall.

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