LOS ANGELES, CA, July 26, 2013 ( – The U.S. government may be trillions of dollars in debt, but it recently found $544,188 to give to a University of California researcher for a promotional campaign, disguised as a study, aimed at increasing the use of the controversial Gardasil vaccine by lower-income teens.

Gardasil is a vaccine to prevent Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), thought to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. HPV is known to cause multiple types of cancers, including cervical, anal, penile, and throat cancer. Because of this link, Gardasil is often referred to as the “cervical cancer vaccine,’” but it does not prevent cancer cells from forming in the body. Instead, the vaccine prevents the four most common strains of HPV, out of an estimated 150 strains.

In part because the vaccine has been linked to dangerous and sometimes fatal reactions in young girls, sales have declined steadily since its introduction in 2006, despite the fact that thanks to an aggressive behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign by vaccine manufacturer Merck, many states now require the vaccination before entering secondary school.

But sales may soon enjoy a boost in the poorer neighborhoods of Los Angeles County, as UC researchers work with the L.A. County Department of Public Health on a study aimed at getting more parents to have their girls injected.

Called “Increasing HPV Vaccine Uptake in a Low Income Ethnic Minority Population,” the project seems more like an advertising campaign than research. But the American taxpayer, not Merck, is footing the bill, to the tune of more than half a million dollars through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant.

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Dr. Roshan Bastani, the lead researcher for the project, told the goal of the ‘study’ is “to see if a simple intervention delivered through an existing county service can substantially increase HPV vaccine uptake among low-income girls in Los Angeles County.”

To that end, employees at the Los Angeles County Department of Health will ask incoming female callers whether they have a daughter between the ages of 11 and 18. If so, the employees will provide the study’s prescribed “intervention” by giving the mothers basic information about the vaccine and a referral to a free or low cost clinic where they can get it.

Since a study has to have a control group, Bastani says the experiment will run only every other week. “It’s a randomized design,” Bastani told “It’s every other week, so women calling on the ‘intervention weeks’ will get the intervention, women calling on the control weeks will not.”

If a parent accepts the first ‘intervention,’ the health department will follow up with a series of phone calls to monitor their subjects’ progress. “The vaccine is in three doses,” explained Bastani. “We make a first call giving them enough time to see if they got the first dose, then we call back later to see if they completed the three-dose vaccine.”

To convince those parents who resist the ‘intervention,’ the researchers have provided health department employees with scripts that contain “individually tailored messages to address callers’ barriers to HPV vaccination,” in six different languages.

Objections to the Gardasil vaccine are common. In 2010, less than half of U.S. teens received even one dose, and fewer than one-third received the full series of three injections, according to the National Immunization Survey.

According to the U.S. government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database, as of 2011, Gardasil had been linked to 49 sudden deaths, 213 permanent disabilities, 137 reports of cervical dysplasia, 41 reports of cervical cancer, and thousands of adverse events reports, ranging from headaches and nausea, to outbreaks of genital warts, anaphylactic shock, grand mal convulsion, foaming at the mouth, coma and paralysis.

The vaccine’s spotty safety record prompted one well-known physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola, to proclaim it “largely ineffective, potentially very dangerous, and a major waste of money.”

Some parents object to the Gardasil vaccine on the grounds that since the disease can only be transmitted through sexual contact, they believe giving it to their teens implies approval of teenage sex. 


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