Toronto Star Gardasil Story Pulled From Paper's Website: Publisher's Note

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The Toronto Star will pull a controversial article on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine from its website, a little more than two weeks after the story kicked off a wave of online criticism and even internal rebuke.

The Star's publisher John Cruickshank wrote in a Feb. 21 note that the story, which focused on the Gardasil vaccine, sought to show that all drugs come with side-effects, and that "acknowledged risks are not always properly communicated."

"However, we have concluded that in this case our story treatment led to confusion between anecdotes and evidence," Cruickshank wrote. "For that reason, the Gardasil story package of Feb. 5 will be removed from our website."

The story received heavy criticism, especially from the medical community, for suggesting that the vaccine had a dark side. The story said that "since 2008 at least 60 Canadians experienced debilitating illness" after taking the vaccine.

"That alarmist information is not the full story," wrote Kathy English, the Star's public editor on Feb. 13.

"What you need to know and understand fully is the fact that there is no scientific medical evidence of any “dark side” of this vaccine," English wrote.

"The Gardasil vaccine has been tested by highly credible national and global public health agencies and the scientific evidence overwhelmingly concludes that it is safe and effective."

That wasn't the only rebuttal to the story published in the Star. Two days prior, the paper ran an editorial by Juliet Guichon and Dr. Rupert Kaul with the headline "Science shows HPV vaccine has no dark side."

The piece was endorsed by 63 other specialists in infectious disease, public health or related sciences.

"When such articles appear, we all lose," the editorial stated.

"Those of us in a position to influence others have a responsibility to provide the best evidence about health-related issues.

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