Young people * Women's health

Schoolgirl dies after cervical cancer vaccination

Vaccine protects against HPV Investigation underway

A fourteen year old girl from Coventry has died after being given a vaccine to protect against viruses which cause cervical cancer.

Although the exact cause of death will not be known until a post mortem is conducted, the vaccine batch has been quarantined by Coventry NHS as a precautionary measure.

Schoolgirl Natalie Morton died in hospital shortly after being given the Cervarix vaccine yesterday at Blue Coat CofE School in Coventry.

In a letter to parents posted on the school website, headteacher Dr. Julie Roberts said that "One of the girls suffered a rare, but extreme reaction to the vaccine. A number of other girls also reported being unwell and some were sent home."

Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, the vaccine protects against infection by two types of human papilloma virus (HPV) responsible for around 70% of cervical cancer cases in the UK. It is the first vaccine against a sexually transmitted infection.

Each year in the UK, around 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed, and 1,000 women die of the disease.

The HPV national immunisation programe which began in 2008, initially targeted all 12 and 13 year old girls. Older girls are being vaccinated as part of a catch up programme.

By September 2009, the Medical and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) had received 2,137 reports of side effects and 4,657 suspected reactions due to the vaccine from 1.4 million doses administered in the UK. The most common vaccine side effects included headache, nausea and dizziness. None were unexpected.

In a statement, Dr. Caron Grainger, Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Coventry and the city council, said: “A 14-year-old girl took ill at a school in Coventry and was taken to University Hospital in the city where she later sadly died. Our sympathies are with the girl’s family and friends at this difficult time.

“The incident happened shortly after the girl had received her HPV vaccine in the school. No link can be made between the death and the vaccine until all the facts are known and a post mortem takes place.

NHS Coventry has taken the proactive step to quarantine the batch of the vaccine used as a precautionary measure only and have informed the regulatory authority. We are conducting an urgent and full investigation into the events surrounding this tragedy.”

This article was published on Tue 29 September 2009

Image © Leah-Anne Thompson -

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