Following on from extensive hysteria and bad press in many countries, including Denmark and Japan, the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigated the issue that’s been dubbed “HPV vaccination syndrome”.
They have concluded that scientific evidence DOES NOT support that HPV vaccines cause complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
So what did the review committee do?
They (experts in the fields) carefully studied the published data including that from the clinical trials, reports made by the public and patient groups, from health professionals and information from the European Member States. No stone unturned. Given that the safety of the vaccine has been monitored passively in over 63 million girls and women and actively studied (comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated in carefully designed studies) in over a million of these recipients you would think if there was a link between the vaccine and these diseases something would have shown up. But it didn’t.
So why are we seeing cases of girls with pain and fatigue after the vaccine?
The reality is that the symptoms of CRPS and POTS exist on a spectrum and correspond with many other conditions so assigning a diagnosis is often very difficult. It is estimated that every year about 30 women in every 100,000 between the ages of 10 and 19 may develop one of these conditions. Put another way, in NZ that is 180 new cases of CRPS or POTS in girls and women aged 10-19 every year by chance. Obviously, given we are offering the HPV vaccine to all our girls and women in this age group some cases will occur after the vaccine by coincidence.
What is HPV vaccination syndrome?
HPV vaccination syndrome is a recently invented term to describe the list of vague symptoms reported by vaccinated girls and/or their mothers (such as pains, fatigue, dizziness…). There is no diagnosis for this ‘syndrome’ and no known plausible way the vaccine could cause such a disorder. (See here my discussion on this in Clinical Rheumatology).
I know the anti-vaccination lobby will be bitterly disappointed about this finding, as the fact the EMA were looking at the issue appeared to add some sort of credibility to their claims. The fact there is no evidence for their assertions will do nothing to dissuade the believers, as belief does not require any evidence, only faith. Neither will evidence get in the way of a good scare story.