Cancer jab girl ‘had health problem’

Post mortem results show schoolgirl had a serious underlying medical condition

The girl who died on Tuesday after a cervical cancer vaccine had a "serious underlying medical condition", it emerged yesterday.

Dr Caron Grainger, joint director of public health for NHS Coventry said in a statement: "Preliminary post-mortem results have revealed a serious underlying medical condition which was likely to have caused death. We are awaiting further test results which will take some time. However indications are that it was most unlikely that the HPV vaccination was the cause of death."

It has not been disclosed whether or not this condition was known before the vaccine was administered.

The trust said it was not suspending the immunisation programme in the city but would "pause" it to prepare medical staff for the inevitable questions from worried parents. The national programme began last year and the vaccine – delivered in three shots over six months – is due to be offered to every 12 or 13-year-old girl in the country, with a catch-up programme for older girls up to 18 which launched this autumn.

A spokesman for NHS Coventry said the trust was "rescheduling" the clinics planned for yesterday and today "to be able to brief our frontline clinicians ... so that they are prepared to handle any enquiries they may get". He added: "We fully expect to resume the programme in the coming days."

Meanwhile "The jab to save life took a life," was among the messages posted yesterday on the Blue Coat School website. "RIP Natalie – love and prayers to your devastated family".

Scores of similar tributes were left to the 14-year-old girl, Natalie Morton, who collapsed and died at the school in Coventry after receiving her first cervical cancer jab on Monday as part of the national immunisation programme against the disease.

Julie Roberts, the school's headteacher, said special assemblies were being held to support the children. "We have made provision for counselling and we have a school chaplain for every year. As far as the school is concerned, our thoughts and prayers are with the parents and our first priority has to be the children."

The Department of Health said it was working closely with the NHS and regulatory bodies to investigate the details of the case. "No link can be made between the death and the vaccine until all the facts are known," a spokesman said.

The batch of vaccine from which Natalie was vaccinated had been quarantined "as a purely precautionary measure", he said. The vaccine had passed the "rigorous safety testing" needed for it to be used in the UK and Europe and had a "strong safety record".

The spokesman said: "There is no reason for the campaign to be suspended or interrupted. However, we recognise that minor delays may occur in the next day or so in some areas."

Doctors and medical charities yesterday urged parents not to panic. Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, has been licensed in 95 countries and millions of doses have been given worldwide, including 1.4 million in the UK.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said there had been 4,657 suspected reactions to Cervarix reported in the UK. It added that it had received 2,137 reports between 14 April 2008 and 23 September this year.

Doctors and the public are encouraged to report any adverse event, however unlikely its connection with the vaccine, so that drug safety experts can examine them for patterns. Most reported reactions turn out to have nothing to do with their supposed cause.

David Elliman, consultant in community child health at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said yesterday: "Since the [Cervarix] vaccine was introduced, its safety has been monitored very carefully. In spite of millions of doses being given, we are not aware of any similar occurrence previously."

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