A new support group, set up by parents of teenage girls who claim a vaccine against cervical cancer has made them ill, will be launched on the weekend of May 23rd.
The group Reaction and Effects of Gardasil Resulting in Extreme Trauma (Regret) believes the human pappilomavirus (HPV) vaccine, administered to teenagers to protect against a virus that causes cervical cancer, has caused long-term health difficulties in their daughters.
The vaccine, offered to teenage girls in Ireland since May 2010 as part of the schools vaccination programme, is recommended by the World Health Organisation. Its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has said there is no scientific evidence the vaccines cause harm or are related to "any autoimmune syndrome".
The Health Products Regulatory Authority, which monitors health products in Ireland, reports that it has had 856 reports of side effects since the vaccination was introduced. These included fainting, dizziness and headaches at the time of vaccination, as well as malaise, gastrointestinal symptoms and skin and injection site reactions. These were consistent with the information provided with the product by the manufacturer, the authority has said.
Kiva Murphy and her daughter Kelly Power (17), from Dublin, and Karen Smyth and her daughter Laura (17), from Louth, told The Irish Times they believed the vaccine caused long-term problems.
Both teenagers had said they were fit and healthy before receiving the vaccine, but both now suffer from symptoms including headaches, excessive fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, gastrointestinal discomfort, nerve-related pain, sleep disruption and light sensitivity.
Ms Smyth said she was initially told her symptoms were attributable to “the teenage years”, but was eventually diagnosed with ME, chronic fatigue syndrome, and was told her condition would resolve itself. It did not improve. At one point she spent 12 months in bed, she said. She no longer attended school as she did not have the energy.
Ms Power said she had the same symptoms, but was initially diagnosed with depression. “I knew I didn’t have depression,” she said. She has also been treated for fibromyalgia and has chronic pain.
The girls’ mothers, who say they are not anti-immunisation and have given other childhood vaccines to their children, want to raise awareness of the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine. They would also like support for their daughters so they can continue education.
The group will meet in Dublin to offer support to other families who believe they have been affected by the vaccine.
In a statement, the HSE said the vaccine was considered safe and well-tolerated and the side effects were usually mild and temporary reactions.
Like most vaccines, severe allergic reactions were extremely rare, the statement added, and there was no evidence of long-term side effects. It also said all vaccines used by the HSE as part of the immunisation programme were licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the European Medicines Agency.