The Daily Mail is reporting that the name of Lucy Hinks of Port Carlisle, Cumbria, in the UK, has been added to the ever-lengthening list of possible victims of the HPV vaccine after her health took a serious turn for the worse shortly after she received the vaccine last spring. Even though Glaxo-Smith-Kline, which manufactures the vaccine known as Cervarix, denies that it had anything to do with Hinks' condition, her parents are convinced this was what caused their daughter's mysterious illness.
Lucy's mother, Pauline Hinks, says her daughter had an excellent school attendance record and was among the top students in her class before she received the third and final dose of Cervarix in May of this year. Within weeks of receiving the shot, she lost 14 pounds and was sleeping almost around-the-clock.
"Some nights I’ve been so worried that I wake several times to make sure she’s still breathing," Pauline said. "I was concerned about the potential side-effects because Lucy had a severe reaction from the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine. But I was reassured by the school nurse that side-effects were extremely unlikely. We feel betrayed because, like most parents, we trust the health authorities with our children’s lives."
Lucy's condition continued to worsen until one day she was too exhausted to stand. Now she's so bad they had to install a chairlift to bring Lucy downstairs so she can be part of the family even though she is nearly comatose.
"I bring her downstairs because she's part of the family," Pauline said. "I want her down here and hope that subconsciously she can hear something of what's going on."
They also devised an electric bell Lucy can press when she needs pain relief.
"She can whisper five words," said her father, Steve Hinks. "Hurting, toilet, tablet, water and mum."
The couple spoon feeds their daughter lunch and dinner, which is mostly liquid food because chewing deprives her of too much energy.
Thus far, they have been unable to find anyone who can help their daughter recover. While her pediatrician is investigating a possible link between her condition and the vaccine, tests have ruled out a brain tumor and glandular fever. Doctors say they are now 95 percent certain that Lucy is suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
But no one can say for sure if it was caused by the vaccine. A letter from the consultant at the hospital where Lucy has been treated informed the family that it was "quite possible" their daughter's condition is a reaction to the HPV vaccine.
A spokesman for Cervarix’s manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline, said the company took reports of adverse reactions very seriously and added: "The UK medicines safety agency regularly reviews all suspected adverse events and had concluded that no new or serious risks have been identified during the use of Cervarix in the UK and that the balance of benefits and risks remains positive."
News of this latest victim is no doubt worrying to parents of girls who are scheduled to receive the vaccine as part of a mandatory national vaccination program that started in September, 2008. The only way to avoid the vaccine is to opt out.
Since the program started, more than 2,000 girls developed health problems since receiving the shot. The most tragic case was the sudden death of a 14 year-old schoolgirl who dropped dead in the hallway of her school shortly after receiving the vaccine. Although authorities later claimed she died of a brain tumor, her death remains suspect.
Vaccine watchdog groups, such as JABS, are calling for the program to be abandoned until the safety of the vaccine can be determined.
"There have been some real horror stories," said Jackie Fletcher of JABS. "After the injection, suddenly they’ve got things like chronic fatigue syndrome."
The same problem has been occurring in the U.S. where Merck's version of the drug, known as Gardasil, has caused the deaths of 82 girls and spurred more than 18,000 reports of adverse reactions.
What is even more distressing about these many lost or negatively impacted lives is that the vaccine is not considered to be all that necessary. According to Dr. Diane Harper, lead researcher on both the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines, annual screening are already reducing cervical cancer rates by approximately four percent per year. With only 12,000 cases and a little more than 3,000 deaths per year in the U.S., if annual screening rates remain as they are today, cervical cancer will be almost completely eliminated within 60 years even without the vaccine.
The Hinks admit that they have revisited their decision to allow Lucy to have the vaccine many times.
"I have regrets," Pauline said. "But it's no good having them because you can't change what we've got. Hindsight is a marvelous thing."
Her advice to any parent considering whether or not to have their daughter vaccinated for HPV is to get as much information about it as possible.
"Talk to people about it," Pauline said. "You decide, not the Government, whether it's right for your child."
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