Teens have shown symptoms similar to HPV vaccine for years - professor
A leading professor of paediatrics says teenagers have for years been presenting with debilitating symptoms similar to ones cited by those who had received the HPV vaccine.
Almost 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in Ireland and up to 90 will die of the disease annually.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is responsible for 70pc of cervical cancer cases in this country.
According to the HSE, 80pc of women will contract HPV in their late teens or early 20s and in many cases it will clear of its own accord. But the HPV vaccine - available free to teenage girls - can eradicate seven out of 10 of the cancers associated with the virus and, according to experts, help save many lives.
Introduced in 2006, the vaccine, which is used in 60 countries worldwide, has been administered to more than 270 million people, and more than 660,000 in Ireland alone.
Experts at home and abroad recommend that young girls are vaccinated against the disease.
But a growing number of parents have become worried about side-effects that they believe will manifest after administration of the vaccine drug, Gardasil. Common side-effects include dizziness, headache and skin rashes, but some parents have cited other more serious reactions including chronic fatigue, nausea, swollen joints, gastrointestinal problems and menstrual problems.
However, Karina Butler, UCD clinical professor of paediatrics, says youngsters in their mid-teens have been presenting with these debilitating issues for many years.
"It has long been recognised that teenagers often display symptoms which are associated with chronic fatigue, ME (Myalgic Encephalitis) and other conditions," she said. "Signs include severe fatigue, dizziness and non-specific pain and I have been seeing it in both girls and boys long before the vaccine became available. There is no single unifying explanation for this but stereotypically the children will be high achievers who are sporty and have always been very actively engaged."
Prof Butler says while she has been treating teens with these conditions for years, there is no specific cause or cure currently available.
"Although we don't have an explanation as to why this age group presents with these symptoms, the phenomenon has been recognised for many years," she said. "Around the mid-teenage years, something triggers the onset of these disabilities."
She said it was entirely coincidental that teen girls displayed similar symptoms after getting the HPV vaccine.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that the HPV vaccine causes these symptoms and in fact it has been subjected to far more rigorous tests than any other vaccine and the WHO has found it to be totally safe," she said.
"It is of course understandable that parents are concerned when they see a query over the safety of a medicine. These concerns have been taken very seriously.
"But results have shown that there is no difference in symptoms in those who had the vaccine and those who didn't."