December 14, 2008
Mystery illness paralyses girl given cervical cancer jab
Daniel Foggo and Philip Cardy
A 12-year-old schoolgirl has been left paralysed from the waist down by a mystery illness that came on 30 minutes after she was given the new anticervical cancer jab.
Ashleigh Cave suffered dizziness and headaches soon after the vaccination at her school and then deteriorated rapidly, collapsing several times over the following days.
A week later she was admitted to hospital after losing all strength in her legs and, two months on, there has been no improvement.
Her mother Cheryl, 37, from Aintree, Merseyside, is blaming her daughter’s condition on the human papillomavirus (HPV) jab, which was introduced in Britain in September as part of a government-funded vaccination programme.
All girls aged 12 and 13 are being offered vaccinations with Cervarix, a drug that stimulates the body to defend itself against HPV, to protect against the later onset of cervical cancer which is linked to the virus.
In America, where an immunisation programme using a similar product, Gardasil, began more than a year earlier, there have been dozens of serious “adverse events” reported in which a link to the vaccinations is suspected.
They included 30 deaths in addition to cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an auto-immune disease that can cause paralysis. The American authorities have said, however, that there is no evidence the HPV jabs caused these reactions.
Ashleigh’s case has been logged with Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as an instance of possible Guillain-Barré syndrome, although her doctors have now apparently ruled it out as the cause.
The agency has also indicated that the illness was probably not caused by the jab. Ashleigh’s doctor at Alder Hey children’s hospital, Liverpool, where she is undergoing tests, has said she did not have a “pathological reaction” to the vaccine.
Cheryl Cave said that she found the timing of her daughter’s symptoms impossible to ignore.
She said that within 30 minutes of Ashleigh having the jab at Maricourt Catholic high school on the morning of October 15, she was complaining of severe headaches and dizziness. Over the next 48 hours her condition worsened and she collapsed five times. Two days later they set off to visit friends in Hampshire but the schoolgirl collapsed again on the train.
She was admitted to Frimley Park hospital in Camberley, Surrey, where doctors gave the initial diagnosis of “vertigo and generalised myalgia, probably due to recent vaccinations”.
On October 22, a week after she was given the HPV jab, she was admitted to Alder Hey hospital, where she has remained ever since.
Her mother said: “At first they tried to tell us she was imagining it because she was being bullied . . . they will not mention her illness and the vaccine in the same sentence.”
A spokesman for the medicines agency said: “Guillain-Barré syndrome naturally occurs in the population. There is no good evidence to suggest that the Cervarix vaccine can cause [it].”
GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Cervarix, said that the agency had suggested the case “was not linked to the vaccine”.