Scotland: Worry over HPV vaccine safety as printed in The Nairnshire Telegraph, 04 June 2013
A Nairn mother in Scotland is urging parents to demand the full facts when their daughters are offered anti cervical cancer jabs that have left thousands of girls across the UK suffering reported side-effects.
The latest session of the voluntary vaccination programme for 12 and 13-year-olds is scheduled for June 18 at Nairn Academy.
Sherrel Halliday’s daughter Deborah suffered partial paralysis and months of pain shortly after a Cervarix jab, two and
half years ago.
The previously sporty youngster still requires weekly physio-therapy and a strict diet.
Her mother has not been reassured by a government decision to replace the vaccine last September with an alternative
– Gardasil – which also claims to protect youngsters from genital warts.
Both offer a level of protection from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most common cause of cervical cancer. The UK and Scottish governments consider both vaccines safe.
According to the safety regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA):
“The balance of risks and benefits remains positive.”
NHS Highland has echoed that, saying:
“Immunising girls before they become infected with HPV could prevent up to 400 deaths per year in the UK.”
The most up to date records, up to March this year and compiled by the MHRA, reveal that since the immunisation programme began in 2008 a total of 7,106 UK youngsters have reported “adverse reactions” to the jabs.
Of those, 6,231 were linked to Cervarix and 487 to Gardasil. In almost 400 other cases, the brand name was not stated. The symptoms varied widely, but hundreds of recipients reported severe pain.
No-one could be contacted for comment at US pharmaceutical firm Merck, which manufactures Gardasil.
As the next round of vaccinations at Nairn Academy approaches, Mrs Halliday said:
“I still want more information about these drugs. “It is astounding and unacceptable that the Department of Health and all the other organisations I have contacted have no information to support their use. They have sent me reams of web site links, but little in the way of hard facts.”
“Deborah was a healthy 13-year-old and full of life before receiving the Cervarix jab. We were told it was perfectly safe because they’d given it to hundreds of pupils and that a minor adverse reaction was not unusual.
Deborah suffered far worse, two months later, after the second of a three-jab course. Within days she could barely walk as partial paralysis and severe chest and back pain set in due to muscle spasm – all of which she believes were a reaction to the vaccine.”
She was off school for three months with extreme fatigue as her family sought answers.
Acting on a recommendation, she has gradually been nursed back to health with a regular intake of Volvic bottled water which contains silica, an apparent antidote to aluminium consumption.
Her steady recovery is also attributed to a diet of silica-rich foods and oily fish. Now 15, she continues to have weekly physiotherapy sessions at Nairn’s hydrotherapy pool for muscle-building exercises which have aided her mobility. But the fatigue returns after high activity which frustrates Deborah because of her love of sport.
Mrs Halliday, who has paid tribute to supportive Nairn Academy staff, continued:
“My aim is to create awareness. Let parents make an informed choice based on the full facts.”
In the event of an adverse reaction, she wants parents to fill in the provided “yellow card” for feedback. She is also urging
youngsters to visit their GP for a medical prior to having the jab in order to set a “health benchmark” in the event that they suffer side-effects.
Deborah Halliday, 15, says:
“I thank my lucky stars that I only had two of the three vaccinations. I’d hate to think where I would be now if I’d had all three.
It’s been a long haul. I see now that other HPV vaccine damaged girls need something to aim for and I hope they, too, can push through their pain so that they can manage it as I’ve had to.
I’m realistic and realise that some sports and other activities remain out of bounds. However, pure determination, the will to get better and the support of my family have pulled me through.
I have spoken with other girls who are suffering the side-effects of this vaccination. It’s nice to talk with them. Together, we’re able to make light of our predicament, at least for a little while.
However, some girls are not improving and hearing their stories and their amount of suffering is truly harrowing.
At the start the pain was extraordinary, powerful and immensely restricting. Gradually, with the help of’ physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and a strict diet, I have battled my way back to a more manageable level of pain.
People need to consider the cons as well as the pros of this vaccination, so they can make an informed decision. That was a choice I didn’t have.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Goverriment said:
“Both Gardasil and Cervarix are considered to have good safety records.
While it is acknowledged that vaccines carry a small risk of known side-effects, the risks are balanced against the consequences of not having the vaccine.
The MHRA closely monitors the safety of the vaccine and healthcare professionals and parents and carers are encouraged to report any suspected adverse reactions.”
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said:
“The Gardasil vaccine protects against several types of viruses linked to cervical cancer. For full immunity it
is recommended that three doses of the vaccine are required.
Because of the likelihood that a small number of girls will miss a dose because they were absent from school on one of the days the vaccine is given, it is standard practice to run a fourth session to ‘catch’ any girls who missed a dose that year.”
In the UK, about 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and around 1,000 die from it.
The decision to switch to Gardasil was made because it is said to protect against four strains of HPV, compared with just two for Cervarix.
The Scottish Government says girls are now protected against the two strains that cause more than 70% of cervical cancers in the UK plus a further two strains that cause around 90% of cases of genital warts.