Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed The Australian connection – Helen Lobato

That Australia has its own special but scandalous place in the history of HPV vaccines is well documented in my book Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed. Australia could well be considered the birthplace of Gardasil for it was Professor Ian Frazer and the late Jian Zhou who first produced an HPVvirus-like particle at the University of Queensland. In 2007 Australia was one of the first countries to offer Gardasil, a vaccine purported to protect against cervical cancer to 12-13 year-old girls even though this cancer is rare. In Australia the cervical cancer incidence rate is 7 cases per 100,000 women, with the death rate currently at 1.9 per 100,000 females.

The rollout of Gardasil was preceded by years of promotion by the manufacturer Merck and CSL Ltd, the New Zealand and Australian distributor culminating in a relentless propaganda campaign during which Professor Ian Frazer became our national hero and was awarded the 2006 Australian of the Year Prize. In the same year the nation watched as the ‘acclaimed’ scientist vaccinated the first Australian girl. In 2013, the government subsidised vaccination program was extended to 12 -13 year-old boys, supposedly to provide protection against genital warts and cancers of the penis and rectum, and to reduce transmission of HPV to girls. Again we were among the first in the world to extend the reach of this dangerous and useless vaccine. But then as in the case of the fast uptake and roll out to the girls we can assume our very connection to the vaccine developer had a role to play in this decision. The story of this flawed vaccine includes the part played by Australian politics. The biotechnology company, CSL’s first application for listing Gardasil on the national immunisation register was declined by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), a decision that was defended by Tony Abbott, the Minister for Health. But due to an intense public outcry Prime Minister John Howard stepped in promising the fearful electorate that the vaccine would be approved. But there is no denying the serious adverse effects of this vaccine. According to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Database of Adverse Events Notifications (DAEN) there have been around 4300 reported adverse events and one death following Gardasil. In August 2018 Joan Shenton’s documentary Sacrificial Virgins was shown around Australia. The UK author and journalist was to attend all of the events but was denied her visiting visa. Public discussion of vaccines is avoided at all costs in Australia, especially one that questions the safety of Gardasil. 
There is no proof that HPV has anything to do with cervical cancer. The vaccine was not tested against cervical cancer outcomes. What started out as a vaccine fast-tracked to protect against cervical cancer is flawed. I strongly agree with the statement made by author and journalist Joan Shenton in a recent press release: The responsible thing is to suspend such programs until independent science gives the all clear. And with Queensland the birthplace of Gardasil, many Australians think their country should be taking a lead in behaving responsibly over this.

Helen Lobato


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