HPV vaccine blamed for mystery illness

Ivanka Nortier who has been battling serious illness after she received the HPV vaccine.

A Kraaifontein couple say the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine caused their daughter to fall seriously ill.

In an interview with the Cape Argus, Nino Nortier said his daughter, Ivanka, who is now 10, collapsed at school three months after being vaccinated against the sexually transmitted infection last year.

The Cervarix vaccine is given at school to Grade 4 girls, aged 9 and older, after parents have signed a consent form.

Provincial health department spokesman Mark van der Heever said the national Department of Health had introduced the vaccine because certain HPV strains caused cervical cancer.

Mr Nortier told the Cape Argus his daughter had been given the vaccine at school in April last year.

“Towards the end of July, the school phoned to say that she had collapsed. And from then, she did not attend school for the rest of the year. She was more in hospital and at home. Three doctors tried to find a treatment for her, but there was no reaction to any medication they prescribed.

“It started with severe body pains, from the head all the way down to the toes, fingers, arms and legs. For about three months, she could not walk on her own.

“She couldn’t speak, felt dizzy and she did not eat. And it was quick, she went to school in the morning and by twelve o’clock she was ill.”

Brackenfell paediatrician Professor Pieter Fourie gave Ivanka a thorough medical examination, which included three MRIs, a brain biopsy, full blood tests and a lumbar puncture.

Professor Fourie said: “Based on all the extensive testing and physical as well as psychological evaluations, we could not find a direct link between the symptoms and any known disease. So, by logical deduction, we end up by questioning whether the HPV vaccination, in fact, could be the cause of the neurological and physical derangement we have observed.”

Professor Fourie has a string of qualifications and titles to his name, including being the CEO and director for research and development at Katleho Biomedical, and the adjunct-professor and head of the Biomedical Engineering Research Group at Stellenbosch University.

The Northern News asked Professor Fourie how likely it was that the HPV vaccine was related to Ivanka’s illness.

He said: “This is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer and all I could say is that there might be a causal relationship between the vaccination and her present condition.”

Mr Van der Heever said the department had registered the incident for investigation.

“The department has since tried to interview the parents but they, however, did not want to be interviewed by our staff to start an investigation into the cause.

“We have, however, again, initiated the possibility of speaking to the family to take the investigation further. We have also engaged the national department for guidance and have encouraged the family to visit their nearest public health facility so that our medical professionals can examine her to determine the exact cause of her condition.”

Mr Van der Heever said the department’s records showed there had been “no major adverse or unexpected events” linked to the vaccination.

“The vaccine contains nothing that can cause cancer or other illnesses,” he said, adding it had been use in many other countries, including Australia, the UK, America and India.

“ As with all vaccinations, some children may experience some bruising or redness at the vaccination site. In very few cases, due to nervousness and anxiety, some girls have reported vomiting and nausea, although this seems to be at the thought of being injected rather than a response to the vaccine,” he said.

More than 3 000 South African women died of cervical cancer every year, Mr Van der Heever said.

“HPV is a viral infection that can cause cervical cancer. This vaccination prevents the infection of HPV in girls and protects them against developing cancer-causing HPV in adulthood. All Grade 4 girls, from 9 years and older in public and special education schools will be vaccinated via the school-health system.”