A trial done by PATH with HPV vaccines on 24,000 girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat has been termed a “sordid incident” by the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Health and Family Welfare that found the entire matter “very intriguing and fishy”. This trial has left in its trail at least 1200 girls in the two states with chronic health problems. A writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court praying for the identification of the health problems of these girls and provision of treatment, along with other prayers.
Notices were issued to the Government of India and the Drugs Controller by the Supreme Court in January 2013 but neither has bothered to file a reply. In this callous delay in court proceedings, the 72nd report of the Standing Committee released last week has proved to be a boon in disguise. The concerned officials from the ministry, ICMR and the DCGI, and also from PATH appeared before the Standing Committee but their explanations cut no ice.
This report was placed before the judges today and senior advocate Colin Gonsalves representing the petitioners reiterated the misery of the girls who are likely to be afflicted with serious conditions like convulsions, asthma, central demyelinating diseases, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, idiopathic thrombopenia purpura, etc.; autoimmune conditions like thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis; and also by mental ailments that are serious enough to lead to suicides. The Standing committee has also stated that HPV vaccine as a possible, if not probable, cause of suicidal ideation cannot be ruled out.
Since the filing of the main petition many new facts about these vaccines and their serious health implications have come to light. Tomljenovic and Shaw examined post-mortem brain tissue specimens from two young women who suffered from cerebral vasculitis-type symptoms following vaccination with the HPV vaccine Gardasil and concluded “Our study suggests that HPV vaccines containing HPV-16L1 antigens pose an inherent risk for triggering potentially fatal autoimmune vasculopathies.” It should be known that cerebral vasculitis is a serious disease which typically results in fatal outcomes when undiagnosed and left untreated. Many of the symptoms following HPV vaccination are indicative of cerebral vasculitis such as intense persistent migraines, syncope, seizures, tremors and tingling, myalgia, locomotor abnormalities, psychotic symptoms and cognitive deficits.
On 20 March 2013, the United States based Judicial Watch announced that, it has received documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that its National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) has awarded $5,877,710 (US dollars) to 49 victims including two deaths in claims made against the highlycontroversial HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines.
Meanwhile a fact finding mission undertaken by NGOs in the project areas in Gujarat in June 2013 indicated that many of the girls have already got married and moved away making it difficult to trace and treat them.
The petitioners had therefore asked by way of interim relief that all the vaccinated girls be examined by qualified medical practitioners to ascertain their health status and provide appropriate medical care.
Beyond these 24,000 girls the other consumers of the two vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix are also at risk because the two companies have not bothered to update their product information to include serious side effects as they are emerging and being included in the inserts of other countries.
Also in countries abroad both companies provide information to the patients/users that informs them of the effectiveness, potential problems and symptoms for which the users should approach a medical facility. The petitioners felt that this information is also the right of Indian patients, girls, and women who can then make a rational choice and take timely decision to seek medical care if they choose to get vaccinated.
Based on these arguments the judges have asked that notice be served on PATH to respond to the petition and on the rest of the respondents to give their responses within four weeks.
Submitted by Nalini Bhanot, Kalpana Mehta and Dr. V. Rukmini Rao