By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
British health officials have called a temporary halt to a national vaccination program after a 14 year-old collapsed and died a few hours after receiving the controversial cervical cancer vaccine, Cervarix.
Eyewitnesses said Natalie Morton, 14, who attended the Blue Coat Church of England School in Coventry, had received the shot at school and collapsed about an hour later in the corridor.
“About an hour after having the jab Natalie went really pale and wasn’t breathing. I think it was around lunchtime,” a student at the school told the Daily Mail. “She fainted in the corridor. I saw ambulance men pumping her chest then the teachers told us to go outside. A lot of people were crying afterwards and we were all very worried.”
Natalie was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
As a result, health officials immediately quarantined the batch of vaccines in use at the school to test for possible contamination, and have called a temporary halt to the national vaccination program pending an investigation into the girl’s death.
A spokesman for Coventry Primary Care Trust said: “An urgent investigation has been launched and while we wait for the results from the post mortem all vaccinations using the drug have been temporarily stopped.”
The UK Department of Health is refusing to comment on whether it will continue the program which has already seen more than a million girls innoculated in the past year.
The latest incident is only adding fuel to the fire of growing concern over the vaccine after an analysis drawn up last month by the UK’s drug safety watchdog group, Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), found 2,107 patients who reported some kind of adverse reaction to the vaccine, including nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, convulsions, seizures and hyperventilation.
Jabs, a support group for families with children who become ill after receiving a vaccination, say they have received calls from parents whose daughters have had seizures, paralysis, blurred vission, severe headaches, and the loss of feeling in parts of their body after receiving the Cervarix.
Cervarix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, competes with Merck’s more expensive Gardasil vaccine in the UK where an estimated 1.4 million teens have already received it as part of a government program. The new drug, which is administered in three doses, targets two HPV strains that cause cervical cancer – HPV 16 and HPV 18.
Dr. Pim Kon, medical director at GlaxoSmithKline UK which manufactures Cervarix, said in a statement that the exact cause of death is not yet known and that the company is assisting in the Health Department’s investigation.
Dr. Kon also said that the majority of suspected adverse reactions to Cervarix thus far have related “either to the signs and symptoms of recognized side effects listed in the product information or were due to the injection process and not the vaccine itself.”
The FDA is currently considering the use of Cervarix in the United States, where it will compete with Gardasil, another cervical cancer vaccine with a controversial track record. Since its introduction in 2006, there have been more than 15,000 reported adverse reactions to Gardasil, including 3,000 injuries and 48 deaths.
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