My two regular readers are probably sick to death from hearing about a certain HPV vaccine by now but I thought I’d put up a quick comparison of VAERS data for those that are interested.
The raw VAERS data is quite popular among those who wish to cast aspersions on the safety of the vaccine so I thought I would query the database myself to see what the results would be and compare the Gardasil figures against less controversial vaccines. I decided to compare the data for all reported adverse events between the time 2006-2009 for not only the HPV quadrivalent vaccine but also the flu vaccine and the MMR vaccine. If Gardasil is so dangerous the figures should be significantly higher for this vaccine than the others shouldn’t they?
So here are pictures of the actual VAERS database query reports, first will be a table showing the number of events under each category (Total number of events is top right of the table), for completeness next I show the query criteria used to generate the report so you may replicate the results yourself.
Now those with a keen eye for detail (not to mention keen eye sight, click the images for a better look) will notice that the results are not really all that different. Oh, they are up a little for one, down somewhat for another but they are all basically within spitting distance. What does this comparison tell us about the safety of these vaccines, well not much. These numbers are virtually meaningless when it comes to determining if a vaccine has caused any of these events or even it’s relative safety to other vaccines, without knowing the number of doses for each vaccine we can not even begin to guess about safety.
This is my main point about using the VAERS data in villifying Gardasil, without extensive follow-up work there is no way to go from this information to conclusions about how safe the vaccine is. It makes for great scare tactic fodder and singling out individuals from this mass of statistics (like Brook Petkevicius) makes a compelling story but without rigourous science behind it these are all simply anecdotes. The important thing to remember is corelation does not equal causation, this is only a single instance of correlation, should multiple lines of research lead to the same conclusion then it will be reasonable to find that the vaccine is at fault. Until then however, unfortaunate as these events are for those concerned, there is no reaseon to think they are anything more than coincidence.