Cervical cancer vaccine link to death disputed

Jasmine Renata, 18, was found dead in her bed in September 2009.
Jasmine Renata, 18, was found dead in her bed in September 2009.

The likelihood of an Upper Hutt teenager having died as a result of the cervical cancer vaccine has been rejected as convoluted pseudoscience by an Auckland University researcher.

Jasmine Renata, 18, died in her sleep in September 2009, six months after completing the three-dose vaccination programme for cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil.

She suffered from runny noses, headaches, warts, tiredness, a racing heart and other symptoms.

During an inquest last month, Ms Renata's parents, Rhonda and Joe Renata, said they believed the vaccine was the cause of their daughter's failing health and eventual death.

In a presentation to the inquest, Canadian neuroscientist Christopher Shaw and United States pathologist Sin Hang Lee said heavy aluminum staining in Ms Renata's brain tissue could have acted as a "trojan horse", bringing the human papillomavirus, or HPV, into her brain.

Helen Petousis-Harris, of Auckland University's Immunisation Advisory Centre, said yesterday that the arguments put forward by the doctors were convoluted and not based on scientific evidence.

"I find that quite concerning, given the gravity of the issue here. Anyone who has had the vaccine may become worried, and anyone planning to have it may also become worried.

"But it's based on no evidence at all, which is not good. You have got to make your decisions based on good science."

The doctors' studies into the links between aluminium levels, Gardasil and cervical cancer risks were shaky at best, Dr Petousis-Harris said.

"You start making a statement about something that may or may not be true, then start drawing these conclusions and assumptions without having any data.

"Then you keep going, and the more you keep going, the more difficult it becomes to substantiate."

It was important to discuss the weaknesses in the research so parents and possible vaccine recipients had all the information, she said.

"I was deeply disappointed to see conjecture and pseudoscience used in that forum in an attempt to bring a vaccine with such an excellent safety profile into question."

The coroner's findings on Ms Renata's death are yet to be made public.

The Dominion Post