U.K. girl who died after HPV vaccination had cancer
Flowers are attached to the gate of Blue Coat Church of England School in Coventry, England, on Tuesday Sept. 29, 2009. (AP / Rui Vieira, PA)
Published Thursday, October 1, 2009 11:50AM EDT
The 14-year-old British girl who died this week within hours of receiving a vaccine against HPV had a massive cancerous tumour in her chest that likely killed her, a coroner says.
Natalie Morton collapsed Monday about two hours after being given at her Coventry-area school a shot of Cervarix, a vaccine that protects against two human papillomaviruses that can cause cervical cancer.
Deputy coroner Louise Hunt said Thursday at an inquest into the teenager's death "it appears that Natalie died from a tumour in her chest involving her heart and her lungs."
Dr. Caron Grainger, joint director of public health for the Coventry area where Natalie died, confirmed that in a statement released to reporters.
"The pathologist has confirmed today at the opening of the inquest into the death of Natalie Morton that she died from a large malignant tumour of unknown origin in the heart and lungs," she said.
"There is no indication that the HPV vaccine, which she had received shortly before her death, was a contributing factor to the death, which could have arisen at any point."
Her mother and stepfather didn't comment on the autopsy but said they would miss their "kind, fun-loving" daughter "very much."
The news of the girl's death worried many across Britain, which began offering the vaccine to teenage girls at schools last year.
While health officials were quick to stress there was no reason to think the vaccine killed the girl -- who reportedly appeared perfectly healthy -- many likely assumed the vaccine caused her death.
The batch of the vaccine used on Morton was quarantined to test whether it was faulty or contaminated.
As well, the National Health Service in Coventry halted its vaccine program in the city for two days, to give staff administering the vaccine training in how to answer questions from anyone concerned about its safety.
Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is not available in Canada, but it is going through the federal approval process. GSK Canada has applied to Health Canada for approval of its vaccine and expects a response by early next year. Cervarix has been approved for sale in 98 countries worldwide.
In this country, all 10 provinces as well as the Yukon that have HPV vaccine programs use Gardasil, made by Merck Frosst.
Like Gardasil, Cervarix is administered in three separate shots over six months and protects against strains of human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Gardasil protects against four HPV strains: two that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers, and two that cause genital warts. Cervarix protects against two HPV strains that are linked to 80 per cent of cervical cancers; the shot does not protect against warts.