Lump on shoulder 'caused by vaccine'

27 October 2006

A Wellington schoolgirl who twice suffered a bad reaction to the meningococcal B vaccine says she has daily pain and a disfiguring lump on her neck.


Petra McDiarmid, 16, joins an increasing number of people calling for the Health Ministry to come clean about the vaccine's possible side effects.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson told Parliament this week there had been "no significant adverse events" associated with the immunisation programme.

But within two days of Petra receiving the first of the three-shot vaccine, her arm, shoulder and neck swelled into a painful mass.

Her mother, Johanne Greally, took her to an emergency doctor, who confirmed Petra's ailments were caused by the vaccine.

Six weeks later the swelling had gone down and Petra agreed to a booster shot, based on the doctor's advice that her chances of reacting a second time were no greater than for someone who had never had a reaction.

This time the reaction was instantaneous. "My arm felt really heavy all the time and when I tried to pick up things I wouldn't be able to pull up my shoulder.

"At first it hurt all the time, now it just aches."

Ms Greally said Petra had also been left with an 8-centimetre lump on her neck, which jeopardised a budding modelling career.

"My beautiful daughter is permanently deformed."

Health Ministry claims that there had been no significant adverse health events were not true, Ms Greally said.

Otago University centre for adverse reaction monitoring director Michael Tatley said Petra's case would almost certainly have been included in its reporting had it been alerted to her case.

That she had experienced swelling after both doses of the vaccine suggested it was not only the cause, it would put her at the severe end of the reaction scale, he said. Meningococcal B immunisation programme director Jane O'Hallahan said more than one million people had received more than three million doses of the vaccine since July 2004, with 2200 reporting adverse reactions.

That compared with 213 cases and seven deaths from meningococcal B a year before the immunisation programme was introduced.

Accident Compensation Corporation revealed this week it had accepted 33 claims for harm caused by the vaccine, including two for anaphylactic reactions, six for a serious blood disorder, cellulitis, nerve damage, bruising and fractured upper teeth.