Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 17:58 UK

Keep faith with cancer jab plea

Natalie Morton
Natalie Morton died in hospital following a cervical cancer jab at school

Parents are being urged to carry on getting their daughters vaccinated against cervical cancer.

Senior government health officials have sought to allay fears following the death of a 14-year-old from Coventry.

Natalie Morton fell ill shortly after being given the Cervarix jab, but it has now emerged she had a serious underlying health condition.

Chief nursing officer Christine Beasley urged parents not to lose confidence, saying the jab could save lives.

She said: "My message to parents and to the young girls themselves is this a vaccination which will prevent you getting cervical cancer, which is a horrible disease, even if it is treated."

Protection

Public health minister Gillian Merron added: "We hope that girls continue to protect themselves against cervical cancer by having this vaccine."

Natalie was given the vaccination at school as part of the national vaccination programme. It protects against the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease linked to most cervical cancers.

Dr Caron Grainger, joint director of public health for NHS Coventry and Coventry City Council, said the results of a preliminary post-mortem examination had "revealed a serious underlying medical condition which was likely to have caused death".

Head teacher Dr Julie Roberts and the Bishop of Coventry on the death of Natalie Morton

"We are awaiting further test results which will take some time," she said. "However, indications are that it was most unlikely that the HPV vaccination was the cause of death."

Coventry postponed its immunisation clinics immediately after the death while the batch of vaccines was quarantined - this batch is now going to be tested by manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

In the meantime, Coventry is expecting to restart its clinics soon.

Natalie's death has left schoolmates and staff shocked and saddened, headteacher Dr Julie Roberts said.

She described Natalie as a "happy, easy-going child who worked hard".

A routine programme of vaccinating 12- and 13-year-old girls started in September 2008 using the Cervarix vaccine. A catch-up campaign is now under way for older girls.

It is thought about a million girls have already safely received the jab.

Adverse reactions to Cervarix
Pie chart showing adverse reactions to vaccine
Total number of reactions reported between April 2008 and 23 September 2009

More than 1.4 million doses have been given out, of which there have been 4,657 suspected reactions reported, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

There are more than 100 types of HPV but only 13 of them are known to cause cancer.

Cervarix, licensed for use in Europe since September 2007, protects against two strains of HPV that cause more than 70% of cervical cancer cases.

In the UK, about 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and about 1,000 die from it.

Vaccination is not compulsory and consent is required before it is administered to the under-16s.

Parents or young people concerned about the safety of any vaccine are being advised to speak to their GP, visit www.nhs.uk or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.



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SEE ALSO
Cancer jab alert after girl dies
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Schoolgirl dies after cancer jab
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HPV vaccination hits 70% uptake
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High NI uptake of cancer vaccine
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Q&A: The cervical cancer vaccine
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Many parents 'block cancer jab'
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Schoolgirls to get 'cancer jab'
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Panel endorses girls' cancer jab
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EU approves cervical cancer jab
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Cancer jab 'stops 75% of deaths'
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