Holyrood urged to take lead on cancer vaccine issue

The European Medicines Agency is reviewing the HPV vaccine. Picture: Getty
The European Medicines Agency is reviewing the HPV vaccine. Picture: Getty
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A PETITION has been lodged at Holyrood urging support for a summit to look into the safety of the cervical cancer vaccine amid growing fears over reported side-­effects.

Campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to take a UK lead by staging a summit with experts from both sides to determine how safe it is for schoolgirls.

Every girl at secondary school in Scotland is offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) jab which can help guard against the disease.

Medical and government chiefs see the programme as a key tool in fighting the most common cancer among the under-35s and insist no causal link has ever been established between it and any illnesses.

But the European Medicines Agency recently launched a review into the HPV vaccine.

And Freda Birrell of the UK Association of HPV Vaccine Injured Daughters (AHVID) says there is a growing “pattern” of illness emerging among young girls since the jab was introduced in 2008.

“Many UK girls have become seriously ill after being inoculated,” she states in the petition which has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament.

“We feel that serious concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of Gardasil and Cervarix have not been addressed.

“Previous health ministers advised that these new medical conditions were simply a coincidence, underlying health condition or related to their age. Many health officials have tried to identify the problem as being psychosomatic.”

Birrell says her organisation has been contacted by more than 130 families since 2008; more than half of these have come forward since the start of last year, indicating the rate is accelerating.

She added: “They were all saying the same thing – that after they had the jabs they suddenly started feeling very unwell and these illnesses were never going away. They were staying with them.”

The symptoms vary, but include nausea, vomiting and pain throughout the body. Birrell said there is a “pattern emerging” and claimed auto-immune conditions among some have been triggered. The European Medical Agency review will focus on links to two rare conditions. These are complex regional pain syndrome – a chronic pain condition affecting the limbs – and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), which causes abnormal heart rate.

MSPs are now being urged to back a summit of scientists and medical professionals, from various countries and both sides of the debate, to be held in Edinburgh under the auspices of the Scottish Government to explore the issue.

Supporters of the jab say that 90 per cent of all UK girls now receive it and the fact that some become unwell does not establish any causal link with the vaccine itself.

The UK vaccine was provided through Cervarix, manufactured by GSK, between 2008 and 2012, and since then by Gardasil, which is made by Merck.

A spokesman for GSK said: “As with all vaccines, the safety and effectiveness of Cervarix has been rigorously tested in clinical trials and we remain confident in the benefit-risk profile of Cervarix to help prevent cervical cancer.”

The Scottish Government says the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) monitors and provides advice on the safety of the HPV vaccine in the UK.

A spokeswoman added: “Since the introduction of the HPV vaccine in 2008 it has been used by millions of girls across the UK and around the world.