A teenager’s family believes that a vaccine she received to guard against HPV may be linked to a rapid physical decline and eventual paralysis from an as-yet-unidentified disease.
Jenny was a healthy 13-year-old living in Northern California.
CBS reports that 15 months ago she received the third in a series of Gardasil shots, given to young teens to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes some cases of cervical cancer.
Jenny soon began experiencing paralysis. Today she can move only her neck and mouth and has some faint movement in her left hand. She is a quadrapelegic.
A family friend e-mailed IB News, "Thus far, doctors have been unable to identify the cause or even the precise nature of Jenny’s illness."
According to her family’s blog, “Despite the best efforts of an extremely talented array of medical professionals, we have not been able to stop her decline. Doctors don't know for sure why Jenny got so sick but some think it may be connected to the Gardasil vaccinations she got (last one in March, 2007) and the weakening that seemed to start in spring and gradually built up.
"One sign was in April 2007 when everyone in her PE class laughed at her because she couldn't jump a hurdle they considered really puny. It is hard to say when the weakening started but by summer she had a terrible limp.”
The family’s goal in making Jenny’s case public is to gather information about other young people who may have experienced similar rapid declines and paralysis, whether after receiving Gardasil or under some other circumstances. Any readers are invited to contact the family at email@example.com.
U.S. News reports that Jenny’s father, a professor at UC Berkeley, has embarked on a mission to find out whether the vaccine’s link to adverse events is random or not.
Her family is “working with the best doctors in the field, fighting continuously to reach a diagnosis and find treatments.”
They have not ruled out a genetic pre-disposition that may have caused her immune system to be compromised, possibly in reaction to the vaccine, possibly not.
Because of that, her family tells CBS that they do not want Jenny to become a poster girl for the anti-Gardasil campaign and they are not certain Gardasil caused Jenny’s illness. They believe there may be a link, "but, there is no medical consensus on whether this hypothesis is stronger than other possible explanations.”
The drug’s maker, Merck, said in a statement, “Based on the facts that we’ve received, the information does not suggest that this event was casually associated with the vaccination.”
Kelley Dougherty of Merck told IB News last fall that paralysis is not one of the recognized side effects of Gardasil use and is not even on the warning label in the product insert.
Jenny’s father is writing a blog, hoping to hear from other families with comparable post-vaccine experiences.
It should not be hard to find them. There have been 8,000 reported adverse events collected by federal health officials, according to the watchdog group, Judicial Watch.
Among them, the daughter of Christina Bell.
The Florida woman says she had seen the "One Less" aggressive ad campaign by drugmaker Merck, encouraging use of the vaccine for girls as young as nine. After consulting with her doctor, she agreed to have her 12-year-old daughter, Brittany vaccinated.
Last September, the girl suddenly collapsed. Her mother says Brittany used to play softball and run cross country. Now, after getting around with the help of a walker, she is limping.
Boston vaccine attorney, Kevin Conway is preparing hers and five other cases against Merck.
Another is being filed on behalf of 15-year-old, Jesalee Parsons, who reportedly began vomiting the day she received the Gardasil shot. Her claim says she developed pancreatitis. Jesalee has been in and out of the hospital, restricts her diet, takes pain pills, and misses a lot of school, she says.
Jessica Vega of Nevada, came down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an immune system disorder, one week after receiving her second Gardasil injection at age 14. Her family has also filed a lawsuit. Her mother says her lower legs were paralyzed, but she has had to learn to walk again.
Jessica's mom, Rhonda Vega, tells the New York Post, "Protecting girls against cervical cancer is a fabulous thing, but if this is what's going to happen, they need to research it more."
Approved by the FDA in June 2006, Gardasil is being marketed to parents of pre-teen girls as young as nine as a way to “guard” against cervical cancer and genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) type 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV Types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, and HPV Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts cases. The drug is not effective if a person already has been exposed to HPV.
No one can really say if the drug is effective over time without a booster. If given five years before a girl is sexually active - will it be effective when she is? No one knows.
Gardasil has been linked to thousands of adverse reports including paralysis and 11 deaths reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, (VAERS), a joint project of the CDC and FDA where raw data is gathered before it is vetted for accuracy by the CDC.
In August, the non-profit Washington, D.C. government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, had to file a Freedom of Information request to obtain adverse reports from the FDA.
In their updated report, issued June 30th, Judicial Watch reports as many as 18 deaths are linked to Gardasil use, as well as thousands of adverse reports including paralysis, genital warts and fainting.
Last August, the National Vaccine Information Center, a clearinghouse for information on vaccines, reported that Gardasil, given with the meningococcal vaccine, could put patients at risk for Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). GBS allows the body’s immune system to attack the nervous system causing paralysis and muscle weakness.
Merck put Gardasil on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund about six months after it hit the market in June 2006.
But Merck's Dougherty tells IB News that most or all childhood vaccines are automatically added to the list as well as all of Merck’s new drugs as a standard practice.
So far about eight million girls have received at least one of the Gardasil shots, given in a series of three at a cost of $360. 13 million injections have been given, according to the FDA.
This morning on the Early Show on CBS, Dr. Holly Phillips said “At this point we shouldn’t be more worried that we’ve ever been. I think the biggest concern is – parents want to know that, when they give the shots to their children, they’re protecting them, not putting them in harm’s way.”
Many cautious physicians prefer a drug to be on the market for at least five years to see how the public tolerates it, before they recommend it to their patients.
Merck is the same drugmaker that pulled the arthritis drug, Vioxx from the market after hundreds of patients experienced heart attack and stroke. The company has agreed to a $4.85 billion settlement in those cases. Lawsuits allege Merck falsified and withheld data submitted to the FDA in order to win approval for Vioxx.
Jenny’s father writes on his blog, "[Jenny] awed me with her compassion today: she could see I was close to crying and she told me to come over and hug her – and she then looked me right in the eyes and said matter-of-factly: 'don't worry – it will soon be all over.' I felt simultaneously struck with grief but also proud of her courage. I will remember that moment until the day I die (indeed, especially on the day I die)."
“The cause of Jenny’s illness remains a medical mystery. Finding relevant comparables could help to solve that mystery and thus provide a crucial clue to finding the treatment that could save Jenny’s life.
"Time is of the essence because Jenny is now a quadriplegic and is losing the struggle to breathe. Therefore, the family appeals to your viewers to bring any potential comparables to their notice by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.” #