But why is Macron so keen to promote HPV vaccines ?

The Head of State will visit a college in Charente today to raise awareness of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination among young people. But in view of the current data, one can wonder about the real benefits of this prevention.

By Alix Jouan

Emmanuel Macron will be visiting the Jean-Lartaut high school in Jarnac, Charente, on Tuesday, February 28. Accompanied by the Minister of National Education and Youth, Pap Ndiaye, and the Minister of Health and Prevention, François Braun, the Head of State will attend a free vaccination session organized at the school. Then he will participate in an operation to raise awareness of vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV).
But what on earth is the President of the Republic doing in this “mess”? Doesn’t he have other more important matters to deal with at the moment? I guess not.

“Much further and much stronger” in the anti-HPV vaccination

We know since a video published on TikTok on December 9, 2022 that Emmanuel Macron has decided to tackle sexually transmitted diseases in young people and “go much further and much stronger” in the vaccination against HPV “to prevent cancers that then happen”. On the face of it, this is a good intention and we could be pleased with this prevention policy.
One could… Provided that one remains deaf to the various arguments that contradict, for several years, not only the usefulness, but also the harmlessness of these anti-HPV vaccines, in particular Gardasil®.

Cervical cancer: a public health issue?

Human papillomavirus infections are common and often benign sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, certain strains (or genotypes) cause lesions which, if they persist, are held responsible for the development of cancers of the anogenital and ENT spheres. More specifically, genotypes 16 and 18 are thought to be responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.
In France, it is estimated that 3,000 women are affected by this cancer each year, with an unfortunate 1,000 deaths. Even if this is still a thousand too many, these figures are relatively low compared to those of other cancers such as breast cancer, as shown by the statistics of the Ligue contre le cancer. Cervical cancer is therefore not what is called a priority public health issue.

Effective screenings

In most cases, this cancer is detected and treated in time, thanks to gynecological follow-up and screening by smear test or by tests. The latter have reduced the incidence of cervical cancer in France by 40% since 1990 and its mortality by 37%, with only 59.5% of women screened. Is it useful to have recourse to vaccines when such simple and effective tools exist and it would be sufficient to reinforce their use?
In principle, yes, since prevention is always better than cure. But on the condition that these vaccines are really useful for the prevention of cancers and above all without danger.

Vaccines reserved for adolescents

The HPV vaccines used in Europe (Gardasil®, then Gardasil 9®, and Cervarix®) were put on the market in 2006. Their purpose is to prevent infection by the most harmful strains of HPV and, as a result, to limit or even avoid the risk of cancer caused by these strains.
The problem is that these vaccines, like most, must be given to healthy people. If they are injected into people already infected with the targeted strains, clinical studies have shown that they tend to increase the risk of precancerous lesions. This is why health authorities recommend vaccination at early ages (11-14 years in France), before any sexual intercourse that may expose to the risk of infection.

An unverifiable benefit on cancer

Adolescents (especially girls) are vaccinated in the hope of preventing cancer 20 or 30 years later.
However, it is impossible at this time to judge the benefit of vaccination on cervical cancer, simply because the first adolescents vaccinated 17 years ago have not yet reached the age at which this cancer usually occurs, i.e. 40-50 years. While clinical studies have shown some efficacy of the vaccines on infections and lesions due to the targeted HPVs, their usefulness in preventing cancer remains a matter of speculation at this time.
Moreover, over such a long time span (two to three decades), many other factors may play a role in the development of genital cancer: lifestyle, sexual practices, contraceptive methods, etc. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to assess the real role of vaccines in this area.

Serious adverse events

On the other hand, many serious adverse events have been reported by vaccinated girls, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or lupus. But also Guillain-Barré syndromes, myasthenias, polymyositis, Verneuil’s disease, idiopathic hypersomnias, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and other disabling morbidities with complicated names.
As always with vaccines, the exact number of these victims is not known and most of them are struggling to have the link between their pathology and the vaccination recognized. Some of them have joined together in the collective “Girls and Gardasil®” to take legal action. According to their lawyer, Camille Kouchner, 1,672 cases of adverse events were reported between 2006 and 2011, 352 of which were serious, for more than two million young women vaccinated.

Criminal complaints closed without follow-up

Ten complaints were filed in 2013 against the laboratory Sanofi Pasteur MSD (which markets Gardasil® in France) and against the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) for “involuntary harm to persons and aggravated deception”. Twenty-five other complaints were filed in 2014 for “unintentional injury, violation of a manifest safety obligation and disregard for the principles of precaution and prevention”. But all were dismissed by the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office, which considered that the link between the pathologies developed and the vaccination was not established.

A “decisive announcement” by the President

However, in view of the current data and the uncertainties as to the real benefit of these vaccines on cancers, in particular cervical cancer, one may wonder about the interest of the President of the Republic in promoting them with such zeal among teenagers. The Élysée speaks for this Tuesday of a “decisive announcement to eradicate the papillomavirus”. Let’s hope that it is not another vaccination obligation and that everyone will be able to keep their free and informed consent.

The testimony of Océane Bourguignon, the only victim of serious side effects for whom the imputability of her disease to the vaccination was recognized by a double expertise, accompanied by the testimony of the parents of Adriana, young girl who died following her vaccination.