Tragedy in the UK

By Darcy Cowan 06/10/2009

Last week I presented the safety study for the Gardasil qHPV vaccine, after this a reader remarked that it was a relief to see as she was concerned by a story she had read. It revolved around the unfortunate case of a UK school girl who died shortly after receiving a vaccine. As the full story does not yet seem to have been covered adequately by local news I thought I would cover the salient points here.

Firstly there are two competing HPV vaccines in the world market, Gardasil produced by Merk and Cervarix made by GalaxoSmithKline (GSK).  Here in New Zealand we have opted for the Merk version of the vaccine while the UK uses GSK’s product. Cervarix immunizes against the HPV strains 16 and 18 which are implicated in development of cervical cancer while Gardasil also covers strains 6 and 11 which cause genital warts.

Thus the first point to be made in relation to New Zealand readers is that the vaccine this young girl was exposed to is not the same one that is being given to our population.

To summarize the facts about this case, as reported by TimesOnline on the 29th of September, 14 year old Natalie Morton died in hospital on the afternoon of the 28 of September. Preceding her death by several hours was her injection of the GSK HPV vaccine Cervarix, this proximity in time is the only evidence that linked the vaccine to the girl’s death.

Late on the 29th the news that Natalie had a “serious underlying medical condition” was reported in the Guardian. At this point it was still unclear (to the public) whether the vaccine was in any way related to Natalie’s death. Health officials were however preparing to continue the vaccinations that had been put on hold following Natalie’s perceived complications.

By the 2nd of October the full story was clear, as covered in Medical News Today, Natalie’s death was revealed to have been caused by a previously undiagnosed and apparently asymptomatic malignant tumour in her chest. The tumour was described as having heavily infiltrated her heart and gone into her left lung. The HPV vaccine was officially cleared of any causitive agency in her death, in fact according to Dr Caron Grainger, Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Coventry and Coventry City Council, it could have happened at any point.

This story, if the end had been less definitive, could have been a very powerful anecdote against the use of HPV vaccines, as comments both within and about the early news stories reveal. Some with a vested interest of discrediting vaccines will undoubtedly still try to use it as such, already there are attempts to label the cause of death as fiction.  This shows a deeply unsettling conspiracy mindset as well as disrespect to Natalie and her family in trying to use her tragic tale to further their own agenda.

Posted in Medicine, Psychological, Sciblogs, Science, skepticism Tagged: Cervarix, gardasil, health, Health and Medicine, HPV, Science and Society, Vaccines

0 Responses to “Tragedy in the UK”

    • I have to agree with his assessment of the situation, on the whole it was not the journalists that were unjustly implicating the vaccine it was the committed ideologues.
      The only story from a reputable organization I had a slight problem with was this one, describing Natalie as the “Cancer Jab Victim”.
      Generally it was the reaction of the concerned onlookers to the event quoted in the articles that seemed to be leaping to conclusions without considering the alternatives.

      Thanks for the link.

      If anyone is aware of the final part of the story being covered in NZ media please let me know this seems like a bit of a lapse on their part.

  • I saw this issue and was directed to one of several facebook pages set up in her memory and for the most part the comments on these seemed to be sad to lose some one so young but there was a slight tendency to link her death to the “cancer jab”.

  • Alison, that wacky article looks like a reprint of the “Natural News” one I link to. They do seem to multiply in a disurbing manner, no matter what the actual facts may be.

    • I would have written the paper off as a tabloid rag if the thoughts from the science minister had not been included (“He warmly encouraged us to trust this newspaper.”)

      I also found this about another paper that leaned more towards the scaremongering end of the spectrum:

      I also found it instructive that Ben called up Dr Diane Harper, who was quoted in the article and has been utilised by the anti Gardasil crowd as well. The version of this post that appears on my home blog has a comment from a NZ mother who uses this Dr’s words as well.

      Perhaps she should put this quote on her website as well: “I fully support the HPV vaccines,” she says. “I believe that in general they are safe in most women..”