19 April 2009
By Lucy Johnston HEALTH EDITOR
TEENAGE GIRLS SUE OVER CANCER JAB
A group of British teenagers has launched the first legal action against the makers of a controversial cervical cancer jab.
They have suffered symptoms ranging from paralysis and seizures to fatigue and muscle aches since being given the Cervarix vaccine.
The jab is being given to girls from the age of 11 in a huge nationwide programme launched last September. It is claimed it will give 70 per cent protection from the disease to every girl under 18 by 2011.
But a growing number of parents and medical experts believe the vaccine may have alarming side effects.
Among them is Sophie Vickery, 35, from Honiton, Devon, who is convinced the drug has turned her daughter Hattie from a happy 13-year-old with a love of music into an invalid plagued by paralysis, breathing problems and lethargy.
Twelve-year-old Ashleigh Cave has been in hospital in Liverpool since last October suffering paralysis in her legs. She collapsed five times within 48 hours of getting the jab. Other girls have suffered breathing and visual problems.
The case has been taken up by London solicitor Peter Todd, who specialises in vaccine-related claims.
He said: "If you are immunising a large population it is likely a small number will have a serious adverse reaction. These people are innocent, but may become seriously disabled as a result of the jab. I want to see justice for them."
So far there have been more than 1,300 reported reactions to the jab in the UK. Critics say its sister vaccine Gardasil, used in the US for nearly three years, is linked to almost 12,000 reactions including 32 deaths, paralysis, seizures, blood clots, heart attacks, sight problems and blackouts. London GP Richard Halvorsen, author of the Truth About Vaccines, said: "It has been introduced far too quickly. I would not recommend girls are vaccinated until we know more."
Biologist Dr Mae Wan Ho, who has published a recent report on the jab, said: " I would ban this vaccine. It has low effectiveness and it is also subjecting people to the risk of long-term side effects."
A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Cervarix, said: "Cervarix had to undergo rigerous testing with large numbers of people in numerous clinical studies."
She said more than 70,000 doses of the firm's vaccine had been given in trials and recipients had been monitored for more than six years. Clinical studies had shown Cervarix was "generally well tolerated".
New Department of Health figures yesterday showed take-up of the vaccine has soared due to the publicity surrounding the death last month of TV reality star Jade Goody from cervical cancer. Almost 85 percent of girls have now had the first of the three injections needed.
Dr Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Jade's courage has been hugely beneficial in terms of saving lives."