Regular readers will know that we think the rules of crisis management are changing: storms blow up and blow away very fast in this age of Twitter and Instagram. It’s often safe to just shelter until the micro storm passes. (If you doubt us, ask the Mayor of Toronto, still happily in office more than six weeks after allegedly being caught on video snorting crack cocaine)

Hiding in a cave is, though, never a good response to government action yet that appears to be the position of big vacine makers in relation to Japan’s eccentric decision to stop promoting HPV vaccines because of reports of “body pain” linked to these vaccines in … only Japan. Rather than point diplomatically but forcefully to the inherent improbability of a Japan-only side effect in vaccines used world-wide, GSK choose to say nothing and Merck issued some statement from the Burson-Marsteller 1995 handbook saying, “we fully understand the anxiety felt by many people in Japan …” The two manufacturers could have added that almost every  country has had its own set of unfounded reports of adverse events (ranging from uncontrolled promiscuity to sterility to suicide); that none of these reports have been found to have any substance upon investigation and; that millions of women will die as governments continue to indulge the anti-vaccine extremists.

HPV vaccines prevent about 70 percent of cases of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women around the world. Most women do not get them.