A WEXFORD woman who claims that a vaccine given to her daughter to prevent cervical cancer has left the teenager with long-term health problems has accused the HSE of trying to stifle information about the potential harmful affects of the drug.
Susan Whitmore, from Castlebridge, said her daughter Tamara had been suffering from a litany of complaints since late in 2011 when she was first given the drug Gardasil as part of an immunisation programme carried out at secondary schools.
'My daughter was a very healthy, sporty outgoing active child until she received the Gardasil vaccine. Then her life changed dramatically, she started suffering from persistent pain, muscle pains, memory impairment, headaches, sore throats, joint and menstrual problems, seizures, auto immune illnesses, chronic fatigue and nose bleeds to name but a few.
Last week, Susan met Minister Brendan Howlin, to press her case for an independent review of the vaccine and the way the vaccination campaign is being run which, she claims, is 'a denial of rights of young Irish women by a government who have neglected their duty of care to them'.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Howlin said the public vaccination program is an important part of public health policy and it saves lives in Ireland and across the world.
'But confidence in publicly delivered vaccines is critically important. Where real concerns arise they must be taken seriously and vigorously examined. This can only be done on an international basis by demonstrably independent health authorities,' he said.
Susan, who is a member of an Irish support group called Regret (Reactions and Effects of Gardasil Resulting in Extreme Trauma) says so far 263 Irish girls have registered with them who have suffered life-altering side effects after receiving the vaccine.
She said the HSE is currently sending out letters to school principals telling them the vaccine is safe and not to release any information they may get from other sources.
Susan said she wanted to raise awareness among parents 'so that they can make informed decisions about Gardasil'.
'I am not anti-vaccination. If I were, we as a family would not be in this mess today,' she said.
She said an urgent, independent and transparent investigation is needed and said the latest EMA report on Gardasil, which quotes its benefits, is flawed because many of its contributors had 'huge ties to the pharmaceutical industry'.
'We also need recognition of our daughters' post-Gardasil conditions, followed up by treatments from doctors who specialise in the area of vaccine damage, similar to what happened in Denmark.
'Currently what is happening in Ireland is that girls lodge their adverse reaction with the HPRA and go to the local doctor or hospital. In general we find that doctors are unwilling to discuss vaccine damage,' said Susan, whose 16-year-old daughter Tamara has spent the last three years being sick, as a result, she says of the Gardasil vaccination.
Susan said Tamara received her first Gardasil batch in October 2011, her second in December, 2011 and her final one in April, 2012. 'We had noticed her voice becoming weaker and everything about her was slower. Within a few weeks she became violently ill. I am convinced Gardasil was responsible,' said Susan.
'My daughter was extremely unwell recently, her core temperature had dropped drastically and her lips were blue yet I felt there was no point in bringing her to the doctor who prefers to keep "an open mind" on her symptoms or the hospital,' she said.
The next round of injections is due in March.
A circular sent to schools by the HSE, which has been seen by this newspaper, asks principals to distribute only HSE information materials about the vaccination programme and 'do not forward any other non-HSE vaccine information to parents'.
The HSE told principals it had written to parents highlighting that the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation have 'reaffirmed that HPV vaccine is safe, there is no evidence to link chronic fatigue syndrome to HPV vaccine and HPV vaccine is very effective and protects girls from seven out of 10 cervical cancers. Girls who missed their first dose can be given this in March/April 2016.'
The HSE said in a statement that Gardasil is considered safe and well-tolerated. 'The most frequently reported side-effects are local redness and/or swelling at the point of injection and fever,' said a spokesperson, 'these are typical and usually mild and temporary reactions to any kind of vaccination.' Each year in Ireland, around 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 100 die from the disease and all cervical cancers are linked to high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) types.
'Like Ireland, every one of the many countries implementing HPV vaccination programmes are doing so in the best interest of their citizens, to maximise health, prevent disease and prolong life,' the HSE said.