Bad nurses, bad doctors and bad seeds – more 2009 faves

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Part two of journalist William Heisel’s list of the year’s top health stories. Included was one of my own favorites – Newsweek’s deconstruction of health segments on “Oprah” under the headline:

Live Your Best Life Ever!

Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!

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December 30, 2009 at 9:21 am

Yes, a nice article but wish they’d framed the material about the HPV vaccine differently. They give the impression that objectors to vaccination in general are nutty. While Northrup’s discussion of the HPV vaccine on Oprah doesn’t provide any legitimate reason for not using the HPV vaccine, it is the case that, unlike MMR, there is legitimate scientific debate about the risks/benefit of the HPV vaccine. See for example Haug’s editorial in JAMA on August 19, 2009.
The benefits of the HPV vaccine don’t appear to be that great and are subject to considerable uncertainty. Also if you read the research paper written by research staff at the CDC in the same edition of JAMA they conclude there there is some uncertainty about the risk:
“Most of the [adverse events following immunization] rates were not greater than the background rates compared with other vaccines, but there was disproportional reporting of syncope and venous thromboembolic events. The significance of these findings must be tempered with the limitations (possible underreporting) of a passive reporting system.”
Uncertain benefits and uncertain risk, probably low in both cases, so where’s the convincing case for using the HPV vaccine? Certainty not in questionable marketing: