(AFP) – Sep 29, 2009
LONDON — British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline said Tuesday it was working with health authorities here investigating the death of a schoolgirl following a cervical cancer vaccination.
The 14-year-old died on Monday when the Cervarix vaccine was administered at her school in Coventry, central England, as part of a national vaccination to protect women against the disease.
Health authorities have isolated the batch of vaccine used in the school involved against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted virus which is the primary cause of cervical cancer.
"The incident happened shortly after the girl had received her HPV vaccine in the school," said Dr. Caron Grainger, joint head of public health for the National Health Service (NHS) in Coventry and Coventry City Council.
Late Tuesday Grainger said test results revealed the teenager had a "serious underlying medical condition" and the vaccination was therefore "most unlikely" to have caused her death.
"The preliminary post-mortem results have revealed a serious underlying medical condition which was likely to have caused death," she said.
"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."
The Department of Health said the vaccination programme would continue as planned, stressing that more than 1.4 million doses had been given out in Britain and the vaccine had a "strong safety record".
"The quarantining of this batch is a purely precautionary measure," a spokesperson said, adding: "The HPV vaccination programme can continue as planned -- there is no reason for the campaign to be suspended or interrupted."
In a statement GSK, which produces Cervarix, said it was working with health authorities "to better understand this case, as at this stage the exact cause of this tragic death is unknown."
It added: "To date the vast majority of suspected adverse reactions (to Cervarix) have related either to the signs and symptoms of recognised side effects listed in the product information or were due to the injection process and not the vaccine itself."
Awareness of cervical cancer was boosted earlier this year by the death from the disease of a reality television star, Jade Goody, who garnered publicity notably for the need for women to have regular cervical smear tests.
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