An open letter to the Catholic Diocese of Johannesburg

Dear Sirs and Madams,
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in mass at my home parish of St Therese Catholic Church when the seminar on marriage and sexual health was announced. I listened with interest. Then I heard something that alarmed me, although not for the reason you might initially think.

The person announcing the seminar mentioned the Gardasil vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and claimed that 68 individuals had died after receiving this vaccination.

I have found that there are organisations totally opposed to vaccination in any form, and against any disease. These groups deliberately exaggerate the risks of vaccination and downplay the benefits, and use distortions, half-truths and even flat out lies to bolster their arguments. The remark about Gardasil referred to above appeared to be one such, so I investigated. My fear turned out to be correct. The Center for Disease Control, the US Government Arm responsible for dealing with diseases, says the following on its website:

“Consumers, parents, healthcare professionals, and others have raised questions regarding the safety of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil. FDA and CDC take all concerns about vaccine safety very seriously, and have been closely monitoring the safety of Gardasil…

Serious Adverse Event Reports
Any VAERS report that indicated hospitalization, permanent disability, life-threatening illness, congenital anomaly or death is classified as serious. As with all VAERS reports, serious events may or may not have been caused by the vaccine…(emphasis mine)

As of June 22, 2011 there have been a total 68 VAERS reports of death among those who have received Gardasil® . There were 54 reports among females, 3 were among males, and 11 were reports of unknown gender. Thirty two of the total death reports have been confirmed and 36 remain unconfirmed due to no identifiable patient information in the report such as a name and contact information to confirm the report. A death report is confirmed (verified) after a medical doctor reviews the report and any associated records. In the 32 reports confirmed, there was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine and some reports indicated a cause of death unrelated to vaccination (emphasis mine).

Based on all of the information we have today, CDC recommends HPV vaccination for the prevention of most types of cervical cancer. As with all approved vaccines, CDC and FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines. Any problems detected with these vaccines will be reported to health officials, healthcare providers, and the public and needed action will be taken to ensure the public’s health and safety.

This vaccine is an important cervical cancer prevention tool that will potentially benefit the health of millions of women. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 die from this disease in the United States. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, causing an estimated 470,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths per year…

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV has been shown to be a cause of penile and anal cancers in men, and anal, vaginal and vulval cancers in women. Furthermore, it is also known to be a cause of head and neck cancers. It was estimated that in 2002 over 500,000 cases of cancer were attributable to HPV. Finally, newborns who get HPV from their mothers during childbirth have a risk of Juvenile onset Respiratory Papillomatosis.

With all this in mind, I am astonished and very disappointed that the Diocese of Johannesburg saw fit to allow this disinformation about the Gardasil Vaccine to be broadcast from church pulpits. I beg the Diocese to please take steps to correct these factual inaccuracies, and in future to support the Gardasil Vaccination.

Yours Faithfully,



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