Scientist Critical of HPV Vaccine Censored from Commenting on NIH Website

As an employee of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is certainly within Dr. Mark Schiffman’s job description to write articles promoting human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. After all, his employer owns patents on HPV vaccine production technologies and receives licensing fees from the sales of HPV vaccines. The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, based largely on technology developed at NIH and produced by Merck & Co., was approved by the FDA in June 2006. The NIH, funded by taxpayers, also maintains a forum for scientific discourse, called PubMed Commons which hopefully “will leverage the social power of the internet to encourage constructive criticism and high-quality discussions of scientific issues that will both enhance understanding and provide new avenues of collaboration within the community”. In December 2016, Dr. Schiffman and a few industry-paid consultants published an article titled “Carcinogenic human papillomavirus infection.” Dr. Lee responded to Dr. Schiffman saying: "Dr. Schiffman’s responses to my initial comment on the Primer needs a rebuttal to point out its misleading and obfuscating statements." Almost immediately, the discussion was effectively shut down by the removal of Dr. Lee’s comments. Does this not seem like a gross violation of the public trust in an organization such as NIH which has promised to ‘encourage constructive criticism and high-quality discussions of scientific issues’?