More vaccine scare-mongering from the UK tabloids.

The UK paper the Daily Express has been forced to issue an apology after a front page article last week declared “JAB AS DEADLY AS THE CANCER“. The article was referring to the cervical cancer vaccine, known as Cervarix, and was a reaction to the death of 14 year old Natalie Morton from a malignant tumour which coincided with her receiving the vaccine.

The article was apparently a report from an “expert” who was involved in the development of the vaccine who revealed the vaccine “may be riskier and more deadly than the cancer” and would do nothing to reduce the rates of cervical cancer in the UK. The expert in question, Professor Diane Harper, who worked on some clinical trials of the other cervical cancer drug, Gardasil, told Ben Goldacre of Bad Science that “I did not say that Cervarix was as deadly as cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix could be riskier or more deadly than cervical cancer..”. Professor Harper was so concerned by the manner in which the Daily Mail misrepresented her statements, she has made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission in the UK.

In the meantime, the Daily Express issued this apology;

“Last Sunday we incorrectly suggested that the cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix could be as deadly as cervical cancer and that the vaccine is ineffective.

We now accept that there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case and that Cervarix in fact provides protection against the viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancers.

We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for causing undue alarm to all those women and teenage girls considering vaccination against cervical cancer.”

Sadly, for a newspaper with an estimated circulation as high as 2 million, the damage may already be done. The story has now been pulled from the website.

Further reading on this story.