Harper: “I didn’t say that”

Following on from my post about the Natalie Morton case – in which a 14-year old girl died from a thoracic tumour, coincidentally on the day that she received the HPV “Cervical Cancer” vaccine, Cervarix – I was surprised (to say the least) to hear that Diane Harper, a woman involved with the development and testing of HPV vaccine had spoken out about how dangerous the vaccine was.

Strangely, when you try and look up that exclusive story on the Sunday Express website, you get this:


So why is this “article missing”?

Well, it was removed by the Express after it was exposed as a complete sham, untrue or incorrect in every single aspect and detail.

On Wednesday, Roy Greenslade was one of the first to question the veracity of the article, but even his warning:

Once again, this tale illustrates how relying on a single “expert” to sensationalise a contentious issue – especially when the central “fact” of the reason for Natalie Morton’s death has been found to be inaccurate – is a journalistic no-no.

fell far short of the actual truth, which – as Ben Goldacre then discovered – was that the expert in question had been misquoted on every single statement (they even got her title wrong, calling her “Dr” Harper):

I contacted the professor. I will explain Harper’s position in her own words. They are unambiguous: “I did not say that Cervarix was as deadly as cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix could be riskier or more deadly than cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix was controversial, I stated that Cervarix is not a ‘controversial drug’. I did not ‘hit out’ – I was contacted by the press for facts. And this was not an exclusive interview.”

Brilliant journalism, then. But this is no more than we have come to expect from the Express – the stable which has paid out more in libel damages than any other British newspaper in recent years.

Several complaints have been made to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), resulting in the deletion of the story from the website and a partial apology published on page 2 of the Sunday Express today:

Last Sunday we incorrectly suggested that the cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix could be as deadly as cervical cancer and that the vaccine is ineffective.
We now accept that there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case and that Cervarix in fact provides protection against the viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancers.
We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for causing undue alarm to all those women and teenage girls considering vaccination against cervical cancer.

Thankfully, that pitiful effort (which doesn’t even acknowledge their appalling slur against Professor Harper) will probably not be enough to save them from another hefty fine and further action.

It’s nice when the chickens come home to roost on these examples of shoddy journalism. It’s just a shame that Dianne Jefferson hasn’t complained about Ray Hartley and The Times here in SA about their made-up and sensationalist piece about her.
But it is another example of how lousy journalists (such as Lucy Johnston in the case of the Express and Lauren Cohen in The Times) can write complete and utter bullshit and publish it on their front page, then get away with it by dropping a couple of paragraphs somewhere deep in next week’s edition. Too little, too late when the damage is already done.

As one letter to the PCC states:

This is little more than ill-founded scaremongering and irresponsible journalism of the worst kind. Its only effect is bound to be — as was the case with the coverage the MMR ‘controversy’ — to reduce take-up of the vaccine, in which case the Sunday Express will share responsibility for further deaths.

I couldn’t agree more.

hat-tip to Jacques

5 thoughts on “Harper: “I didn’t say that”

  1. Po > Exactly.

    HH > Yes! Saw that yesterday. I laughed SO HARD at the first one. Very clever.
    Sadly, there ae a lot of parents who don’t vaccinate – often for the wrong reasons.
    I would love to ask that 38% WHY?

  2. There is lots of confusion about vaccinations and most parents don’t really understand the ‘real risks’ or the ‘real benefits’.
    These parents did vaccinate their first child, but are now unsure if they are going to vaccinate their 2nd.
    Take a moment to visit this site and see what you think . It may help to enlighten people as to some of the confusion: http://iansvoice.org/ianslife.aspx

    btw, Diane Harpers remarks have been dated and documented on reliable sites quite apart from the tabloids:
    ie: Dr. Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri, made these remarks during an address at the NVIC 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination which took place in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 2-4.


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