Families look to sue over vaccine against cervical cancer

Parents who claim their daughters’ health deteriorated after receiving a vaccine to protect against certain cervical cancers have approached a law firm with a view to suing both the manufacturer and the State.

The Cork-based Ernest J Cantillon Solicitors said approximately 10 parents had approached the firm to investigate if there was a link between the HPV Gardasil vaccine and their teenage daughters’ debilitating symptoms, which include chronic fatigue, muscle pain, seizures, and dizziness.

Karen Kearney, a partner at the firm, said the investigations would involve “a significant amount of medical, legal, and scientific research”.

“We are hopeful that we will get answers to the many questions these families have been asking of the medical profession for some time now, but to no avail, to date,” she said.

The firm has a good track record in medical negligence cases and was the first in Europe to establish a link between the Trivax 3-in-1 vaccine and brain damage. In 1992 the Supreme Court awarded Kenneth Best £2.75m as compensation for damage sustained following vaccination in 1969 with the 3-in-1, manufactured by the Wellcome Foundation Ltd. Wellcome was found to have been negligent in the manufacture and release of a particular batch of the vaccine.

A group set up to support families who believe their daughters were adversely affected by the Gardasil vaccine, administered as part of the HSE’s schools vaccination programme, claims it has caused long-term health difficulties for scores of young women. The group, REGRET (Reactions and Effects of Gardasil Resulting in Extreme Trauma), represents the families of 130 girls.

However, a European Medicines Agency review found no evidence of a causal link between the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) and development of chronic regional pain syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

In Ireland, HPV4 vaccine has been offered to all girls in 1st year since 2010. Recent figures show an uptake rate of 85%. A spokesperson for the Health Products Regulatory Authority, which licenses medicines for use in Ireland, said 644,161 girls had received Gardasil up to the end of October 2015, with the authority receiving 927 reports of suspected adverse reactions/events, the “vast majority” of which are “consistent with the expected pattern associated with the use of the vaccines”.

HPV is the commonest cause of sexually transmitted disease. In most cases the immune system clears it, but in some cases it causes changes in the cervix that can develop into cancer.

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