Gardasil in Colombia: Protesting parents make progress

By Norma Erickson, President SaneVax Inc,

Our primary contention remains: The new medical conditions being experienced by the minors is a result of the application of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil.

Our primary contention remains: The new medical conditions being experienced by the minors is a result of the application of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. (Attorney Monica Leon Del Rio)

Last week, the parents of hundreds of girls experiencing new medical conditions after Gardasil administration blocked classes in educational institutions by padlocking the entrances to local schools. These families claim hundreds of affected girls have been left without treatment for two years while the government refuses to acknowledge the HPV vaccine could be causing serious side effects. They were asking to be heard by national, departmental and municipal health authorities.

After a four day stand-off, government authorities decided to convene a working group to try and address the problem. The Governor of Bolivar, Mr. Dumek Turbay, organized a face-to-face meeting with representatives from the affected families, President of the Association Reconstruyendo Esperanza (Rebuilding Hope), Monica Leon Del Rio acting as the families’ spokesperson and the Colombian Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria, in the city of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). Governor Dumek Turbay promised parents and students they could attend a meeting with the Minister to review the implementation of commitments previously made by the Government with the young people affected, including comprehensive and specialized medical treatment.

This July 14, 2014 meeting, well attended by families of Gardasil survivors and their affected children, lasted nearly three hours. After the meeting concluded, Monica Leon Del Rio, President of the Association Rebuilding Hope, submitted the following comments to SaneVax on behalf of the nearly one thousand members she represented at this meeting:

This meeting left a bittersweet taste. To start with, we could see a completely different attitude regarding the minors from the Colombian Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria. He demonstrated empathy and humanity, traits that have been absent when he responded to the complaints regarding the potential consequences of HPV vaccine administration over the last two years.

On the other hand, he did not exclude the possibility of pre-existing genetic conditions that could have caused the damage left in the wake of Gardasil administration.

The government officials in attendance were opposed to conducting specific tests I requested on behalf of the victims. These diagnostic tests are based on scientific studies in Japan and those conducted by Dr. Manuel Martinez-Lavin, both of which are seen as key tests to extablish possible neurological damage in the minors. Performing skin biopsies to estabish whether nerve connections are damaged and performing a tilt-table test to establish a diagnosis of POTS are two of the specific tests I had requested. However, all of the public officials who were there opposed the implementation of these tests stating that they could generate ‘false positives’. They also stated that if these tests were to be done, the minors would have to be forearded to specialists to see if it was ‘convenient’ to have them done.

Personally, I find this attitude suspicious. My question is this: Since the brain TAC, EEG, and EKG brain tets that have been done so far(and at substantial expense) have not shown any results, why refuse simple tests that could be performed cheaply and easily in the town itself?

Do the government officials fear the results won’t be convenient to them?

Moreover, my request to install an interdisciplinary group of specialists in Carmen de Bolivar’s hospital was not considered. This decision simply prolongs the non-comprehensive medical care the girls have been given so far. This is NOT acceptable, in my opinion. These famiies need comprehensive medical care NOW!

The following previously made agreements were reiterated regarding the girls’ healthcare needs:

  • Establishment of a transportation system in the rural parts of Montes de Maria for children suffering from syncope, wo they coud be transported to the main area hospital’
  • Prompt attention from specialists because today scheduling these appointments can take up to 6 months, generating further damage to the health of the chldren;
  • 3 nationally recognized universities conducting a study of HPV vaccine safety;
  • Dignified and respectful treatment of the children from health institutions because to date, the minors have been stigmatized and abused by some members of the medical community (including a nurse that uses a vulgar expression when a patient experiences an episode of syncope, telling them that they are ‘in need of a man.

In addition, we asked for adequate resources for the health facilities and an adequate anbulance service. In total, there were 10 PROMISES made by the government which I sincerely hope will be kept.

Our primary contention and constant complaint remains: The new medical conditions being experienced by the minors not only in our region, but from different parts of the country is a result of the application of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil.

To this charge, the Health Minister reiterated his denial that these injuries were caused by the vaccine and repeated that the World Health Organization considers the vaccine to be safe.

The world will be watching to see if the Colombian government lives up to their promises to the hundreds of families Attorney Monica Leon Del Rio is representing in their battle to obtain adequate medical treatment.

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