Whenever you see a CDC official interviewed or quoted regarding a vaccine — ANY vaccine — you may be surprised to learn that you’re watching an advertisement. Not a public service announcement or a health warning, but pure marketing genius.
It doesn’t look like an ad. You won’t see pretty models or a clever slogan. And, of course, there are no disclaimers. That’s what makes it so much more effective than an actual Mad Men advertisement.
It’s a government official “educating” the unwary on why they should trust the CDC’s judgment and blindly roll up their sleeves for whatever vaccines they say.
Just one problem. The CDC’s recommendations are driven by sales, not science.
And today’s marketing lesson is on…how to sell HPV vaccines to a skeptical crowd.
Drilling down below the candy-coating
Recently, the CDC conducted a study to assess effectiveness of HPV vaccines. The study included subjects vaccinated with Gardasil (Merck’s vaccine) and Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine).
My! That was awfully good of the CDC to spend OUR tax dollars to help Merck and GSK do the work THEY should be paying for!
And that wasn’t the only gift the CDC gave to the drug giants.
The CDC announced the good-news results in a press release with this headline… “New study shows HPV vaccine helping lower HPV infection rates in teen girls.”
Fantastic! Right? The vaccines work! Our girls are safe!
Well…no. That headline is a bald-faced lie.
An oncology dietician named Sharlene Bidini analyzed the study. With a sharp eye for detail, she uncovered stunning results. They’re right there for anyone to see. But the CDC clearly does not want to highlight them in their marketing strategy.
For instance, the study examined HPV exams from more than 8,000 women. Impressive? Not exactly. Some of those women were as old as 59! And less than 10 percent (only 740) were actually teens.
Suddenly, this large study looks pretty thin. But it gets even thinner.
Of those 740 teens, only 358 were sexually active. So for 382 teens, the testing was irrelevant. Their likelihood of having HPV was zilch!
And now here’s the kicker. Among the 358 sexually active teens, just 111 received at least one dose of the three-dose vaccine.
Doctors have given millions of girls these vaccines. And the sample the CDC came up with was barely more than 100? And those didn’t even necessarily go through the whole treatment?
Well there’s your study. In case you’re keeping score, so far they got everything wrong.
Ah, but there’s one more kicker…
Over the study period, occurrence of HPV infection dropped by less than 6 percent among vaccinated teens. In unvaccinated teens, HPV dropped by more than 27 percent.
And THERE is the real headline: “Unvaccinated girls were safer than vaccinated girls.”
But of course, the CDC and it’s Big Pharma brethren aren’t going to sell any vaccines with THAT headline.
So ask yourself…what would Don Draper do?
“New study shows HPV vaccine helping lower HPV infection rates in teen girls” CDC Press Release, 6/19/13, cdc.gov
“Assessing the Overall Impact of the HPV Vaccine” Sharlene Bidini, RD, CSO, The ONC, 7/1/13, theonc.org