October 4, 2009
After one child’s death, we talk to parents who blame the vaccination for serious illnesses in their daughters
A year ago Rebecca Ramagge was a happy, sporty teenager, a high achiever at school and a tournament-level tennis player. Today she’s a 13-year-old crippled with chronic fatigue syndrome who has been laid up in bed for seven months and needs her mother’s help to tackle such basic tasks as brushing her hair and getting dressed.
Last September Rebecca, along with the rest of the girls in her class at St Bede’s school in Redhill, Surrey, received the first of three inoculations of Cervarix, the cervical cancer vaccine. As part of a nationwide programme the jab is being offered to every girl in the UK aged 12 to 13 to try to prevent the spread of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which is linked to most cases of cervical cancer. By 2011 every girl under 18 will have been offered the jab.
A few days later Rebecca “had quite severe joint pains”, says her mother Clare who, with her husband John, runs a car sales business in Reigate. “We took her to see doctors, who asked me if anything different had happened in her life. The only thing that had changed was that she had had the jab.”
After a second inoculation in November she felt worse and by March she was on crutches. Nevertheless, she was given a third dose that month. Within hours she was “extremely ill”, says Clare: “She hasn’t been to school for seven months. I have to help her do most things, sit up in bed, brush her teeth, tend to all her basic needs. I have become her carer. My husband is having to run the business alone.”
Clare is now taking part in a class action suit against Glaxo Smith Kline, the maker of Cervarix, along with 10 other sets of parents whose daughters have suffered adverse reactions to the vaccine since the programme began last autumn.