29/09/2009

Teen Dies After HPV Cancer Vaccination

A 14-year-old girl has died shortly after she was given a cervical cancer vaccine at her Coventry school.

Natalie Morton was a pupil at the Blue Coat Church of England School, where she became ill after having the HPV (human papillomavirus) jab. She was taken to the hospital but she died a few hours later.

Dr Caron Grainger, Joint Director for Public Health for NHS Coventry and Coventry City Council, said: "We are conducting an urgent and full investigation into the events surrounding this tragedy".

He said he couldn't link Natalie's death and the vaccination until all the facts are known and a post mortem takes place.

However, the batch used at school has been quarantined as a "precautionary measure".

In a letter to parents posted on the school's website, Headteacher, Dr Julie Roberts, said a girl had suffered a "rare but extreme reaction" after being given the vaccine and asked parents being extra vigilant regarding any signs of their children.
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Three other girls reported possible side effects of dizziness and nausea after receiving the jab but their symptoms were described as mild and none was taken to hospital.

Gillian Merron, the Public Health Minister, stated: "It is important we have the results of further investigations as soon as possible to establish the cause of this sad event."

The vaccine is part of the national immunisation programme to protect woman against human papillomavirus. It started last autumn and offered vaccines to girls aged 12 and 13 and also 17 and 18-years-old.

Although there are more than 100 types of HPV, only 13 of them are known to cause cancer.

This vaccine attacks two particular strains that may cause more than 70% of cases of cervical cancer in women, which in turn is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in Britain each year.

Around 3,000 cases are diagnosed annually.

These programmes also exist in other European countries but Britain is the only one to have opted to use Cervarix, rather than a rival brand called Gardasil.

The NHS said the drug underwent "rigorous safety testing" before being chosen for the programme.

Nevertheless, the Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley called for more transparency over the assessments made of Cervarix and Gardasil.

(CL/BMcC)

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