BY ED WEST
A 12-YEAR-OLD girl has been left paralysed from the waist down after being given the cervical cancer jab.
Ashleigh Cave, a Catholic, suffered headaches and dizziness only minutes after receiving the injection, and has spent eight weeks in hospital after losing the strength in her legs. Her mother Cheryl claims the illness is directly related to the vaccine that is being given to 300,000 12and 13year-old girls in Britain.
However, doctors say the paralysis is not connected to the jab.
The Cervarix jab fights the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact and is responsible for around 70 per cent of all cases of cervical cancer, a disease that kills more than 1,000 women in Britain each year.
The Government-funded vaccination programme is supposed to save 400 lives a year. However, some argue that it will encourage promiscuity and lull teenage girls into thinking they are protected from disease. Although the cancer rarely occurs before middle age, the jab has to be administered before a patient becomes sexually active.
In the US a similar vaccine, Gardasil , has resulted in 30 deaths and several cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a malfunctioning of the immune system that can cause paralysis.
In Britain there were trials involving more than 18,000 women before Cervarix was issued, but critics say the five-year study was too short. At least one Catholic school, St Monica's in Bury, refused to allow the vaccinations.
Ashleigh, from Aintree in Liverpool, collapsed several times in the days after receiving the vaccination at Maricourt Catholic High School on October 15.
DOctors at Frimley Park hospital in Surrey originally diagnosed "vertigo and generalised myalgia, probably due to recent vaccinations", before she was admitted to Alder Hey hospital, where she remains.
However, doctors say her illness is not connected to the cancer jab. Dr Andrew Con-an, a consultant paediatrician at Alder Hay, said: "I can say with complete certainty that she is demonstrating no pathological reaction to her vaccination."
Mrs Cave, 37, said she was sceptical of doctors' claims: "At first they tried to tell us she was imagining it because she was being bullied. They will not mention her illness and the vaccine in the same sentence." They also ruled out a link between Ashleigh's current condition and a preexisting genetic condition she has, known as Noonan's syndrome, which causes heart abnormalities and sight and hearing problems.
Mrs Cave said: "I went to pick Ashleigh up and she was complain-. ing of a headache and crying. She had a doctor's appointment, which I took her to, and when we got home, she went straight to bed. The following day, she was very weak, had dizzy spells and kept saying her body was aching, so I kept her off school."
Ashleigh collapsed the following day while they were on a train to London, and stayed in a Surrey hospital for 24 hours. "We took her home and her condition worsened. She could not walk or support her own weight and was admitted to Alder Hey. She has not walked since," said Mrs Cave. "Ashleigh is angry, she does not know what is going on. I take my hat off to her and her determination she will walk again."
The drug safety watchdog Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has been notified of the case. It does not believe the cervical cancer jab brought on Ashleigh's illness. It has declared in the past that there is no link between Cervarix and Guillain-Bani syndrome.
But Jackie Fletcher, national co-ordinator of Justice Awareness and Basic Support (JABS), which campaigns for safer vaccination, said the cervical vaccine should be postponed until more tests were done.
She said: "It's extremely worrying when we hear of a case like this. Given that she was well up to the vaccine being given, and reacted like this, it seems illogical to us as parents that doctors can immediately say it is unrelated.
"What's worrying about the HPV vaccine is that there have not been enough tests on pm-pubescent girls. Most of the tests have .been on woman up to the age of 70. In trials they target people without health issues, but in the UK they are giving to girls who might have other issues, such as diabetes.
"The vaccine might discourage girls from having a smear test because they might think they are protected. What if she has already started having a sexual life, could it upset the system? They're not sure how long it will last. How does it affect long-term natural immunity? Most people can contract the virus but are not harmed will the jab affect this?"