Although it’s very unusual for an ambitious politician to tell a potential voter to not communicate with him (“not to waste politician’s time”), in Ireland at least, highlighting the “not appropriate” subject of vaccine safety can provoke such a response.
When a campaigner wrote two short emails to a Wexford local politician in late 2008 raising concerns about the HPV vaccine Gardasil and suggesting he do some research into the associated side effects, the local politician’s response was “Please refrain from sending me any further misinformed and unrequested junk spam”.
Mairead Hilliard, of Irish Vaccine Informed Parents, wrote to Counciller Joe Ryan (now Mayor of Wexford, pop 18000), after she noticed that he had joined an online Facebook group campaigning for reinstatement of the cervical cancer mass vaccination program in Ireland.
She informed him that one of her own children was damaged by a vaccine and that she believed parents should first be given the vaccine manufacturer’s leaflet to read before giving their consent: “You cannot expect parents to play russian roulette with the health of a 12 year old child” she concluded.
Mayor Ryan replied saying: “It is an outrageous insult to suggest that a parent who wants to protect their child plays roulette of whatever type. It is precisely to take the risk out of my daughter’s [lives] that I want them to receive a vaccination, which would not have been offered to parents in 2008 unless it had been approved beforehand by the HSE and the Irish Medicines Board. Please refrain from sending me any further misinformed and unrequested junk spam.”
In a subsequent article in the Sunday Tribune on the above-mentioned Facebook group titled “(Minister) Harney must reinstate cervical cancer vaccine” (which eventually counted over 19000 members), Mayor Ryan’s email comments were published in relation to the censorship of Ms Hilliard from the group for going “Off Topic” (by posting comments disagreeing with the stated objective of the group) .
After the article came out Mayor ( RyandefendsGaradsilvaccine.wav ) Ryan appeared on a local radio station to defend his position:
“(She) accused me effectively of playing Russian Roulette with my children’s health. As a parent that’s a very insulting thing to say to anyone. I decided the nature of her contact was’nt appropriate…Miss Hilliard is opposed to the vaccine, I don’t see what the point was in debating the matter with her..I’ve concluded that the organisaton effectively is spreading misinformation and that they have an agenda at undermining confidence in vaccines..”
Fortunately for us, Mayor Ryan’s has decided to counteract the spread of such misinformation by taking it upon himself to reveal the true science and statistics behind the HPV Vaccine, via a self-penned article on his personal website. A qualified Science teacher himself, he is scornful of claims coming from those less qualified to comment on the subject: “What has the world come to that I’m expected to indulge someone who peddles bad science..”.
Although he declines to offer us any examples of such misinformation he does point out what we can only assume to be infallible truths in relation to the HPV Vaccine:
1) “Approximately 200 women die each year from the condition in the Republic of Ireland”
2)”The occurence of cervical cancer is set to rise by 1.5% per year so when my daughters are in their middle age it may well have doubled”.
3) He also noted that “It is unusual to vaccinate against a cancer and that’s because in the case of cervical cancer about 66% of cases are caused by a virus HPV“.
At the risk of provoking more derision from Mayor Ryan, but in the interests of objective reporting, we should point out that his figures seriously conflict with the official statistics:
1) The latest available figures for cervical cancer mortality in Ireland are 73 deaths in 2006 , and 81 in 2007 . (Something like 200 contract the disease annually but most cases are non-fatal).
2) After the introduction of a free cervical cancer screening program in 2008, for which up to 80% of women will be covered, and with a 95% detection rate, the incidence of cervical cancer is now falling dramatically. When Ryan’s daughters are in middle age, this will be an extremely rare disease (via the effect of screening program alone).
3) Irish Health Information and Quality Authority: “Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, ( http://www.hiqa.ie/functions_hta_hpv_overview.asp ) without which cervical cancer does not arise“. Therefore close to 100% of cervical cancer cases are associated with the HPV virus [the 66% figure comes from the vaccine effectiveness which only targets 2 of the 100 or so HPV virus types).
Unfortunately, in his haste to set the record straight against those individuals peddling official figures, Mayor Ryan has apparently fallen on his own sword of bad science and misinformation.
What has the world come to indeed..?