By Karen Collier and Jane Metlikovec
May 22, 2007
FEDERAL Health Minister Tony Abbott and health authorities have urged parents not to panic over reports that dozens of teenage girls have been sickened by a new cervical cancer vaccine.
In one case being investigated, a girl was left temporarily paralysed and unable to talk after receiving the Australian-developed Gardasil vaccine.
Health authorities have denied the cases are directly related to the immunisation.
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott and doctors urged parents not to panic, saying the benefits outweighed the small risk of side effects.
Mr Abbott said risks were taken seriously but there was no evidence of a serious problem with the vaccine.
Schoolgirls across Australia are being immunised with the breakthrough Gardasil, developed by Professor Ian Frazer.
Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal said it was important girls were still vaccinated.
"We have got for the first time a vaccine that prevents cancer," Dr Haikerwal said.
Sacred Heart Girls' College student Natasha D'Souza was treated after she was temporarily paralysed and unable to talk for hours after her injection at the Oakleigh school on May 7.
The Royal Children's Hospital said the vaccine was not to blame and tests on the girl were continuing today.
Natasha D'Souza was one of seven Victorian students taken to hospital after vaccinations this month. Most fainted or complained of feeling dizzy.
Sacred Heart Girls' College principal Christopher Dalton said today that 26 girls were taken to the school sick bay after injections.
Five were taken to the Monash Medical Centre, but hospital staff ruled out vaccine complications.
"It is not uncommon for girls of this age group to react to vaccinations in ways that are not necessarily physical in origin," Mr Dalton said.
The school will press ahead with more vaccinations next month.
Parents' permission is sought before students line up for shots, which is given in three doses over six months.
Hundreds of girls in the US have reported reactions such as temporary paralysis, fainting and broken bones from falling over after receiving the shot.
Gardasil protects against strains of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, that leads to most cervical cancers.