Mother suspects Gardasil as reason for her daughter's serious reaction
Friday September 26 2008

BY ROBYN WILKINSON, ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER Megan Battilana is a healthy teenage girl, so healthy in fact that to her mother's knowledge she hadn't ever received antibiotics in her life. But that all changed when the 15-year-old girl was rushed to Headwaters Health Care Centre after having what her family suspects was an anaphylactic reaction to the widely-promoted cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil.
Megan's mother Ruth-Ann, believes that the vaccine, which doctors say helps protect against four types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that can lead to cervical cancer, is what caused her daughter to have difficulty breathing one morning in May.
The Robert F. Hall Secondary School student had just received a third round of the vaccination at her Bolton family doctor's office, and as had occurred during the two previous shots, she came down with a mild fever and extremely sore spot at the injection site, her mother told The Enterprise. Symptoms like these, doctors report, can be expected in some patients, not only after receiving the Gardasil vaccine, but any vaccination.
After her inoculation that took place around 8 p.m., Battilana said she was awoken by her daughter around 5 a.m. May 8.
"She said, 'mom, I don't feel good'," the concerned mother recalls. "She had a raging fever and then she started having trouble breathing and we called an ambulance."
By the time Peel paramedics arrived at their Palgrave home, the anxious family had already searched the Internet for potential side effects of Gardasil, and found that in rare cases, some young women had reported allergic reactions to the vaccine, including difficulty breathing.
According to Battilana, paramedics seemed baffled as to why her 15-year-old daughter was under duress and asked her to print the information she had found off the Internet.
"They treated it as if she was having an allergic reaction to something," said Battilana. "And by the time we'd gotten to the hospital, it (the reaction) had calmed right down."
While she had no concerns with the way her daughter's health was handled by medical staff that day, Battilana's concerns were with the lack of information about the vaccine's potential side effects.
A recent study conducted by researchers in Australia and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a higher than average rate of severe allergic reaction in young New South Wales women who had been vaccinated with HPV.
In Ontario, there haven't been any reported cases of bad reactions, which is why Battilana believes doctors and paramedics weren't sure what had caused her daughter to have, what she suspects is an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Peel's Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa informed The Enterprise there have been no reported cases in Peel, let alone in Ontario.
"We've looked into it and there's been no reporting to that effect," de Villa said of possible cases of patients experiencing severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis to the Gardasil vaccine. In fact, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there have been no reported cases across Canada.
"One has to look at each situation on an individual basis,"  said the doctor, and without having examined the patient, she was unable to comment on the circumstances.
"The situation was serious enough for us to call an ambulance and that is something that you don't do lightly," said Battilana, adding that there was "no doubt in her mind," what caused the reaction.
Although the experience left her shaken, the mother said she would still want to have her child vaccinated with Gardasil.
"Anything I can do to protect her from getting something in the future I would do," said Battilana. "Some people would say 'it's brand new, you should wait to see what happens,' but it's a now or never kind of thing."
As a concerned mother, Battilana wants other parents to know of her family's ordeal, especially with the new school year underway and Grade 8 girls receiving free HPV shots from the Region of Peel.
"If it happened to another girl in our area, I think the parents should know what they might be dealing with."