Katie Couric Peddles False Vaccine “Controversy”

Katie Couric’s program today is shamefully featuring something called the “HPV Vaccine Controversy.” I use scare quotes because there is no controversy. The HPV Vaccine is a safe way to prevent women from dying of cervical cancer.  Full stop.

Still, here is the teaser for today’s show:

The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer … but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls? Meet a mom who claims her daughter died after getting the HPV vaccine, and hear all sides of the HPV vaccine controversy.

“All sides?”  Please. There are cranks like Michelle Bachmann on one side and scientists, doctors, and peer reviewed medical journals on the other side.

Here’s what we know about cervical cancer:

-According to the World Health Organization, HPV linked cervical cancer afflicts 529,000 women. 275,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. More than 85% of these deaths are in the developing world.

Via Seth Mnookin at PLoS: Here in the USA, 25,000 new cancers attributable to HPV occur in the United States each yearAlmost 12,000 of these cases are cervical cancer in females; another 6,000 are oropharyngeal [throat] cancers in men.

According to the CDC, about 4,000 American women died from cervical cancer in 2010, the last year for which data is available.

Here’s what we know about the HPV Vaccine (via the invaluable Seth Mnookin, who alerted me to this story).

-More than 100 million doses of the vaccine have been given since it was approved in 2006.

-A study published in the British Medical Journal in October evaluated 997,000 girls, 296,000 of whom had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. More than 150,000 of those girls received all three doses. The results? Absolutely no link to short- or long-term health problems. As Lisen Arnheim-Dahlström, the lead researcher on the study, told Reuters Health, “There were not really any concerns before our study and no new ones after.”

Here’s what we don’t know: 

-How many parents will watch Couric’s program today and think twice about getting their daughter vaccinated? What percentage of those daughters might develop cervical cancer?

The tagline of the Katie show is “Talk that matters.” It certainly does. Here’s hoping Couric will see the light and devote an entire show to debunking a myth she is helping to perpetuate.