Cervical cancer jab left girl, 13, in ‘waking coma’, Daily Telegraph, 14 November 2011

November 15, 2011

From the Daily Telegraph, 14 November 2011 (story by Stephen Adams, medical correspondent).

Lucy Hinks started suffering tiredness and flu-like symptoms after having the first two injections of the Cervarix anti-cancer vaccine last autumn.

Weeks after having the final injection in May, her health went rapidly downhill and her parents Steve and Pauline say she now sleeps for up to 23 hours a day.

They say doctors are now “95 per cent sure” that Lucy has Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Cervarix protects against two strains of the sexually transmitted human pappiloma virus (HPV), which together cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

Since 2008 all 12 and 13-year-old girls in England have been offered the vaccination course, as part of a long term strategy to reduce the number of cases.

Every year about 3,000 women develop cervical cancer, while it claims almost three lives a day. Cancer charities have been very supportive of the vaccine's introduction.

There have, however, been isolated reports of serious adverse reactions to the jab, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. In 2009 Natalie Morton, 14, from Coventry, died hours after having the Cervarix jab. However, a post mortem discovered she had an undiagnosed heart tumour and an inquest found she did not suffer an adverse reaction to the jab.

Mrs Hicks, 52, said she had now not seen Lucy open her eyes in seven weeks.

“It's a living nightmare,” she said.

Lucy's parents only discovered something was seriously wrong in July, when she told them she was “too exhausted to stand”.

They took her to see the GP but she collapsed in the waiting room. After being taken to Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, she was given numerous tests but these failed to find anything wrong. Later this summer she was admitted to hospital again.

Mr Hicks, 58, who works in a Pirelli tyre factory, said: “She had been able to limp from the settee to the toilet herself. But suddenly she couldn't take a single step. She lost her balance, her arms and legs were failing.”

He added: “We got a letter from the consultant at the hospital. It says it's quite possible that this might turn out to be a reaction to the HPV vaccine.”

Lucy has now been discharged, but her parents try to ensure that one of them is at home to care for her.

Mrs Hicks, who runs the factory's social club, said: “At one stage I thought she was going to die in her sleep.”

She now helps feed Lucy breakfast during the brief morning spells when she is awake.

She said: “I would not wish what we've been through on anyone. I've not seen the whites of Lucy's eyes for weeks and nobody can tell us when it will turn.”

She said of the vaccine: “I would urge parents to get all the facts, gather as much information as you can. Decide for yourself if it's right for your child.”

A spokesman for NHS Cumbria said Cervarix had a “strong safety record”, having been “rigourously tested”.

“A million doses have now been given in the UK. In Cumbria, nearly 60,000 doses have been successfully given to girls since the vaccination programme began in September 2008.”

A GSK spokesman said: “Any suspected adverse reaction related to vaccination can be very distressing and we take these reports very seriously.”

Schools do not have to seek parental consent before giving the jab, although it is desirable, according to the Department of Health.

While the Hinks, from Port Carlisle in Cumbria, are not certain it is an adverse reaction to the jab, they believe it a strong possibility.

They are now urging other parents to get “all the facts” about the vaccine before allowing their daughters to be vaccinated.

This story also appeared in the Daily Mail, Metro Scotland, The Sun and local newspapers and TV news programmes in the North West.

Shopping Basket