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HPV vaccine side effect worries

The Vaccination Forum is reporting an increase in the number of enquiries from women

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There has been a sudden increase in the number of women reporting symptoms following vaccination with human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine according to the chairwoman of the Vaccination Forum Else Jensen.

The Vaccination Forum is a private organisation that seeks to spread information about vaccines, and help those who have experienced side effects. From 2010 until May this year, the organisation had only received one approach. But in May, five young women approached the organisation independently of each other, worried at side effects following an HPV vaccination against cervical cancer.

“It is very unusual for us to get so many approaches about a single vaccine,” Jensen says, adding that online debates and critical remarks may have made young women more aware of symptoms.

Jensen says there is a clear pattern in connection with the symptoms – fainting and tachycardia (fast heartbeat), blood pressure problems, dizziness, headaches and nausea. Several of those who have approached the organisation say they have problems with daily routines.

Although there is no proof that the six women’s problems are the result of an HPV vaccine, Jensen says the likelihood is there.

“The evaluation of a connection (Ed: with the HPV vaccine) is based on the fact that the symptoms are found in otherwise healthy people and that there is a timeframe connection between the symptoms and the vaccine,” Jensen says.

There has been quite extensive media debate at home and abroad regarding the HPV vaccine, which has been available free of charge to girls in Denmark since 2009, and to women born between 1985-1992 since last year.

Foreign experts have previously criticised the Danish Health and Medicines Authority, the Statens Serum Institut and the Danish Cancer Society for having painted too rosy a picture of the vaccine’s effect and neglecting the risks of serious side effects.

The Danish Cancer Society which has warmly supported the HPV vaccine is in no doubt of the vaccine’s positive effect.

“There are rumours around that the vaccine is dangerous - but there is nothing in these rumours,” says Consultant Physician Iben Holten M.D., a project executive at the Danish Cancer Society.

Holten says that the World Health Organisation evaluated the HPV vaccine in June this year.

“Their conclusion was clear. It is perfectly safe and effective. Some 175 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the world,” she says. While Holten understands that young women may become nervous if they experience problems following the vaccine, she says there is no reason to blame the vaccine for the symptoms.

“The fact is that here are some illnesses that affect a population with a certain frequency. If you vaccinate a large part of a population, there will be a degree of statistical coincidence. So while I understand the mechanism (Ed: for the fear) there is no basis for it,” Holten says.

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