FULL CLAIM: "the autoimmune diseases and menstrual cycle problems and fertility problems and pain and dizziness and seizures and all of the other things that we’ve now seen are associated with the [HPV] vaccine"
This video was published in May 2019 by the group Children’s Health Defense, and was trending on Facebook in November 2019. It has received more than 7,000 interactions (including likes, comments and shares) and more than 100,000 views to date. In this video, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims that Gardasil is associated with “autoimmune diseases and menstrual cycle problems and fertility problems”. Gardasil is a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Two forms of the vaccine are currently available, one which targets four HPV strains, namely HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18, which are responsible for most cases of cervical, anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancer, as well as genital warts. The other vaccine targets nine HPV strains (HPV 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58).
There is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. In fact, several studies conducted in different parts of the world have demonstrated that the HPV vaccine has an excellent safety profile. For example, a large-scale study in Denmark and Sweden examining almost a million girls found “no evidence supporting associations between exposure to [the HPV] vaccine and autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic adverse events”. A study in France looking at more than 1,000 girls found that “no evidence of an increase in the risk of the studied [autoimmune diseases] was observable following vaccination with Gardasil within the time periods studied”. A study in the United Kingdom “found no evidence of an increased risk of Guillain–Barré syndrome [a neurological disorder] following HPV vaccination”. Researchers in Norway found “no indication of increased risk of [chronic fatigue syndrome] following HPV vaccination”. And a U.S. study found no association between the HPV vaccine and reduced fertility.
Several other studies that analyzed the combined findings of multiple studies came to similar conclusions. A large meta-analysis of more than 100 studies and 2.5 million people found “no consistent evidence of an increased risk” of autoimmune or neurological problems, as did a U.S. review. And a review of data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) showed no association between serious adverse events and the HPV vaccine in pregnant women and their children.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a position paper on the use, safety, and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine. Safety evaluations were among the scientific evidence used to support its recommendation that “routine HPV vaccination should be included in national immunization programmes”. In the paper’s summary, the WHO stated that “HPV vaccines have an excellent safety profile”.
Jack Cuzick, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London:
This is not a defensible set of statements. There have been millions of girls vaccinated and nothing other than vaccine site reactions have been established despite widespread careful review[9,10,11].
Kevin Ault, Professor, University of Kansas School of Medicine:
According to multiple well-done studies, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is not associated with autoimmune or neurological diseases. A large Scandinavian study of approximately 1,000,000 adolescent females looked at 29 different autoimmune and neurological conditions and “found no evidence supporting associations between exposure to […] vaccine and autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic adverse events.” Another large meta-analysis of 2,500,000 subjects in 109 studies found “no consistent evidence of an increased risk” of autoimmune and neurological diseases. It is inaccurate to state that this vaccine is associated with chronic health problems.
We previously fact-checked a claim that “HPV vaccine may lead to elimination of cervical cancer”, which was found to be accurate by reviewers.
- 1 – Arnheim-Dahlström et al. (2013) Autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic adverse events after immunisation of adolescent girls with quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine in Denmark and Sweden: cohort study. British Medical Journal.
- 2 – Grimauldi-Bensouda et al. (2013) Autoimmune disorders and quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccination of young female subjects. Journal of Internal Medicine.
- 3 – Andrews et al. (2017) No increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after human papilloma virus vaccine: A self-controlled case-series study in England. Vaccine.
- 4 – Feiring et al. (2017) HPV vaccination and risk of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: A nationwide register-based study from Norway. Vaccine.
- 5 – McInerney et al. (2017) The Effect of Vaccination against Human Papillomavirus on Fecundability. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.
- 6 – Phillips et al. (2018) Safety of Human Papillomavirus Vaccines: An Updated Review. Drug Safety.
- 7 – Gee et al. (2016) Quadrivalent HPV vaccine safety review and safety monitoring plans for nine-valent HPV vaccine in the United States. Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics.
- 8 – Moro et al. (2015) Safety of Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (Gardasil®) in Pregnancy: Review of Non-manufacturer reports in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, 2006 – 2013. Vaccine.
- 9 – Vichnin et al. (2015) An Overview of Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Safety: 2006 to 2015. The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.
- 10 – Stillo et al. (2015) Safety of human papillomavirus vaccines: a review. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety.
- 11 – Castle and Maza. (2016) Prophylactic HPV vaccination: past, present, and future. Epidemiology and Infection.