Flawed Study Linking HPV Vaccine To Brain Damage Has Just Been Officially Retracted

This vaccine saves lives, and is perfectly safe. Sherry Yates Young/Shutterstock

As was made incredibly clear by the disgraceful Wakefield saga back in the late 1990s, it doesn’t take much more than a rabid media cycle and a questionable paper to trigger global changes in how the public perceive their health and threats to it. That’s why, when a late-2016 paper linked the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to neurological damage in mice, controversy immediately ensued.

Back when this paper was originally published in November of that year, it was savaged by other experts in the field, who complained that the study was swamped with methodological problems and overzealous conclusions. Fortunately, after an overly long period of time, the original paper has now officially been retracted by the journal it was published in, Scientific Reports.

HPV causes cervical cancer, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is the fourth most common cancer in women. Back in 2012, more than a quarter of a million women died from the disease.

Young adolescent girls are the primary targets for inoculation against the virus. Reams of clinical data have shown all three variants of the vaccine to be both life-saving and safe. Plenty of comprehensive studies and reviews on the HPV vaccine do not show that it brings with it any such neurological, cardiovascular, or autoimmune risks.

The publication of the now-retracted paper back in 2016 caused, rather understandably, quite the shock. The team tested an unrealistically high dose of it on mice, one proportionally 1,000 times greater than that given to people. Along with a toxin that breaks down the blood-brain barrier, the combination appeared to show the mice experiencing brain damage and hampered mobility.

This month's retraction notes that the experimental approach “does not support the objectives of the study” and that the co-administration of a toxin along with a very high vaccination dose “is not an appropriate approach to determine neurological damage from HPV vaccine alone.”

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