Spain withdraws cervical cancer shot (Gardasil) after illnesses

MADRID (AFP) – Spanish health authorities have withdrawn tens of thousands of doses of a vaccine against cervical cancer after two teenagers who received the shots were hospitalised, regional authorities said on Tuesday.

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A batch of nearly 76,000 doses of the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) was withdrawn from market, a government statement said, after two girls in the eastern Valencia region fell seriously ill hours after receiving them.

“One of the girls got out of intensive care this weekend and the other is still there. Both are in stable condition,” a Valencia health department spokeswoman told AFP.

The two girls were vaccinated last week as part of a vast government vaccination programme targeting adolescents.

The vaccine prevents the most common types of HPV, a common virus spread through sexual contact that can cause cervical cancer.

Some 500,000 cases of cervical cancer are discovered each year, according to United Nations estimates, many in developing countries. If left untreated, invasive cervical cancer is almost always fatal.

Spanish health authorities said in a statement the batch of the Gardasil brand of vaccines was distributed country-wide, with some earmarked for regional vaccination programs and the rest sold at pharmacies.

The vaccine has been available for girls since 2006, ideally before their first sexual encounter.

Sweden recently announced it would offer the vaccines to all primary school girls free of charge as of 2010.

Feb 10, 2009

Source: AFP

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