The Daily Mail recently reported that its long running campaign to end the HPV “vaccine apartheid” may succeed, since the Throat Cancer Foundation filed a High Court case in the UK against the National Health Service (NHS) under the 2010 Equality Act, seeking to add boys to the national HPV vaccine program.
The Throat Cancer Foundation is a small charity and not a “top cancer charity” as the Daily Mail article claims. In 2017 the charity reported a modest income of £36,418, with expenses of £34,402. The HPV vaccine Gardasil, is not approved or indicated for throat cancer but this seems irrelevant to the campaign.
A few months ago, I wrote an article exposing the enormous conflict the Scottish charity has with regard to its campaign “Jabs For The Boys.” Professor Ian Frazer (pictured), Gardasil’s inventor and a native of Scotland, served on the charity’s clinical and scientific advisory board. Professor Frazer, who is based in Australia, earns royalties on every vaccine sold in the developed world. He has since stepped down from his role at the charity.
Professor Margaret Stanley, who is a consultant for Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, remains on the charity’s advisory board. Professor Stanley is a virologist at the University of Cambridge and was a consultant on a special committee for the JCVI in 2008, when GSK’s HPV vaccine Cervarix was approved for the national school-based program. The UK switched to Gardasil in 2012. Professor Stanley has also worked as a consultant for GSK and has been very involved in promoting both vaccines via speaking engagements and publishing articles. Her presence on the advisory board of the Throat Cancer Foundation indicates high-level industry support and influence.
Only a handful of countries have a national HPV vaccine program for boys. In the US, uptake for boys is around 27% for the first dose and much less for the complete series. In the UK the vaccine is currently given to almost 90% of girls, and a similar high uptake rate would be expected for boys.
The JCVI will meet again on June 6th to re-examine the issue of adding boys to the HPV vaccine schedule. With a high court case looming over the heads of the NHS, will this influence their decision? Could filing this case be a lobbying tactic by the Throat Cancer Foundation, and by extension Gardasil’s manufacturer, to influence vaccine policy? A positive outcome from the JCVI will directly benefit former board member Professor Frazer and could indirectly benefit Professor Stanley due to her ties to industry.
It appears that this conflict of interest is of no consequence but perhaps the Throat Cancer Foundation should disclose all influences by the vaccine’s manufacturer to the British public, before any high court case proceeds, and before a single boy is vaccinated following their campaign.
Eileen Iorio is co-author of the upcoming book, “The HPV Vaccine On Trial, Weighing The Evidence” published by Skyhorse Publishing.