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First HPV Vaccine-related Injury Claim Will Reach Federal Court Next Week

Nov 8, 2013

Two sisters are claiming that a vaccine for cervical cancer caused their ovaries to stop functioning, making their chances of pregnancy nearly impossible.

Next week, at a hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., the sisters, from Mount Horeb, Wisc., will publicly declare their allegations, according to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Vaccine shots against human papillomavirus, or HPV, caused their ovaries to stop producing eggs, sisters Madelyne, 20, and Olivia Meylor, 19, charge, adding that they believe the shots have also caused them to enter into premature menopause, accompanied by insomnia, night sweats and headaches.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. Health officials recommend three doses of this vaccine—which is available under the brands Gardasil (the one the sisters used) and Cervarix—for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. The vaccine, which is said to protect against cervical and throat cancer, genital warts and other conditions, is not without its controversies.

About 22,000 adverse reactions were reportedly caused by the vaccine, nationally, from June 2006 to March 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In that same period, 57 million doses of the vaccine were distributed.

About 92 percent of the reported reactions involved were deemed not serious by the CDC, involving fainting, dizziness and nausea.

The CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) call the vaccine safe and note that it stops HPV from causing about 18,000 cancers in women and 8,000 cancers in men each year.

Nevertheless, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has awarded about $5.9 million in total payments of 68 cases involving injuries caused by HPV vaccines. The vaccine injury program, through which the Meylor sisters’ claim became the first such allegation to reach a hearing in federal court, has also dismissed 63 claims; 81 are pending.

In 2010 at age 16, Madelyne was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. The vaccine caused her to have irregular periods, according to a brief filed in her case, the State Journal report noted. Olivia only had a couple of periods after her vaccine shot. She was also 16 when diagnosed with premature ovarian failure.

Tests turned up negative for possible genetic causes of the condition for both women.

According to the State Journal report, Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, from Israel, will testify that the sisters have developed an autoimmune disease from “substances in the HPV vaccine, called adjuvants.” These are designed to boost the body’s immune response. The phenomenon is known as Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants, or ASIA, the article noted.

Briefs filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is arguing the case against the sisters’ claims, note that the syndrome “was first proposed by Dr. Shoenfeld in an article he authored in 2010. ASIA is not accepted by the medical community at large.”

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