At least five Galway girls are suffering a catalogue of life-changing debilitating ailments which they blame on the cervical cancer vaccine.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority has stated that it has received 934 reports of suspected adverse reactions to the human pappilomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil, administered to teenagers to protect against a virus that causes seven out of ten cervical cancers. These included dizziness, headache, fainting, injection site swelling, injection site pain, raised temperature, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting.
Reports of persisting or chronic fatigue or severe pain, in some cases with other non-specific symptoms such as drowsiness, gastrointestinal upset, joint swelling, flu like illness and menstrual disorders have also been received.
These were forwarded to the European Medicines Agency’s EudraVigilance database for inclusion in global signal detection activities.
A review published earlier this month by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) dismissed a connection between the vaccine and two reported syndromes, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition where the heart rate increases abnormally on sitting or standing up, together with symptoms such as dizziness, fainting and weakness, as well as headache, aches and pains, nausea and fatigue.
However 127 cases of severe ongoing side effects in young Irish girls have been catalogued by a support group set up parents to fight for better treatment and to raise awareness about the risks associated with the vaccine.
At least five of them are from Galway, according to Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who is backing the parents in their campaign.
Regret – Reactions and Effects of Gardasil Resulting in Extreme Trauma – believes a pattern of debilitating illnesses, including extreme fatigue, chronic pain and constant fits, has resulted from the vaccine in their daughters who were healthy and extremely sporty before taking part in the vaccination programme currently rolled out at secondary schools.
They point to the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s own clinical trials where 2.5% (one in 40) of participants reported a serious adverse event after taking the vaccine.
In addition, 3.3% (one in 30) also reported a new auto-immune condition. The parents say the risks outweigh the benefits with the current rate of incidence of cervical cancer in Ireland at 13 per 100,000 (or 0.013%).
The Irish parents are not alone in their campaign against the vaccine. A Spanish support group has criticised the focus of the EMA review, saying the two syndromes were only officially diagnosed in a small minority of cases.
In Denmark a study published by the Danish Medical Journal in February found there was a consistency in the symptoms of 53 patients examined, which included “pronounced autonomic dysfunction including different degrees of orthostatic intolerance, severe non-migraine-like headache, excessive fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, gastrointestinal discomfort and widespread pain of a neuropathic character”.
“Our findings neither confirm nor dismiss a causal link to the Q-HPV vaccine, but they suggest that further research is urgently warranted to clarify the pathophysiology behind the symptoms experienced in these patients and to evaluate the possibility and the nature of any causal link and hopefully establish targeted treatment options.”
In September the Danish health authorities replaced the Gardasil vaccine with its competitor Cervarix. Japan withdrew its recommendation for a HPV vaccine in 2013 due to concerns about long-term pain and numbness. Last August guidelines approved by the Japan Medical Association (JMA) for the evaluation and management of symptoms that begin after HPV vaccine injection were issued to healthcare professionals.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has stated in the Dáil that the vaccine protects against two high-risk types of HPV that caused 73 per cent of all cervical cancers and could save an estimated 60 lives annually in Ireland.
“While no medicine (including vaccines) is entirely without risk, the safety profile of Gardasil has been continuously monitored since it was first authorised both nationally and at EU level,” he said.
“Healthcare professionals should therefore continue using them in accordance with the current product information.”
The HSE said in a statement that 300 women annually are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland and 100 die from the disease. All cervical cancers are linked to high risk HPV types.
“Gardasil has been found to be over 99% effective in preventing pre-cancerous lesions associated with HPV types 16 and 18 in young women aged 16-26 years. Gardasil has been found to be over 99% effective in preventing HPV 6 or 11 related genital warts.
“The impact of a population wide Gardasil vaccination programme has been demonstrated in Australia where there has been a 50% decline in high grade cervical abnormalities in girls under 18 years and a 93% reduction in the number of diagnoses of genital warts in women up to 21 years of age.
“ There has also been an 82% reduction in genital warts diagnosed in heterosexual men up to 21 years of age which is attributed to herd immunity.”
The executive also insisted there was no evidence of long term “sequelae” to Gardasil.
The HSE pointed out that by March 2015, over 187 million doses of Gardasil had been distributed to 72 million people worldwide either as part of national immunisation programmes or by private doctors.
Life was changed forever by vaccine for cervical cancer
Mary O’Malley* from Galway City, said her twelve-year-old daughter had been a sports fanatic before receiving the HPV vaccine in 2010.
After the first shot she had sore glands, headaches and tiredness, all normal symptoms which subsided after a few days.
Following the second shot, she had profuse bleeding from the injection site and then developed severe headaches. Her mom put it down to her being run down from doing too much sport.
Within eleven months the teenager was barely able to get out of bed. She was surviving on rice cakes and water yet piled on three stone in two months.
Every inch of her body ached. Numerous trips to the GP and tests conducted at the hospital failed to get a diagnosis other than teenage hormones or emotional problems.
She eventually had to give up school and studied at home for the final two years, managing to pass her leaving cert despite her illnesses. In 2013 a paediatrician diagnosed her with chronic fatigue syndrome. It was only when Mary discovered a parent in America complaining about the exact same symptoms in her daughter on a health website that a link with the HPV vaccine emerged.
“From day one my daughter said she didn’t feel right after the vaccine and I didn’t listen to her,” she sighs, tears in her eyes.
“The initial symptoms – she’s learned to cope with them – but now there’s new chronic pains, her left leg has started to turn in, 18 months ago she lost her eye sight, it came back but the peripheral sight in her left eye never came back. She’s under a neurologist for ice pick headaches,” explains Mary.
“She has no social life, she can’t go into town, she’s never been to a disco, she couldn’t go to her debs. She’s lost most of her friends since dropping out of school – yet nobody cares.”
A dad from South Galway said his 15-year-old daughter was a county camogie player before her life changed dramatically five months ago. She collapsed on a GAA pitch and was out cold for thirteen minutes.
After that, the fits kept occurring, even when she was sitting on a chair. She sleeps up to 20 hours a day and can no longer go to school. A single dad, he cannot leave her alone for long in case she passes out.
Medical tests have revealed low blood pressure but so far no definite reason has been uncovered for her dramatic change in health.
When he read accounts of the girls published on the Regret website, he recognised all of the symptoms, none of which were present before she got the vaccine when she was twelve.
“My girl’s personality has changed completely. She used to be so outgoing. She used to do sean nós dancing. She can’t do anything now. The other mothers don’t want her over because they’re afraid she’ll collapse.”
After meeting with eight such parents from across the region, Oranmore Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has raised the plight of the girls in the Seanad. She is calling on the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to set up a multidisciplinary team to investigate the cases and to properly treat the teenagers.
She is also urging the HSE to accurately outline the possible side effects in their leaflets so that parents can make an informed choice.
“These girls all have very similar symptoms in common which they only developed after the vaccine and they can’t find out why they have them. They were all gifted at sports. We have a duty of care to them and to the next round of girls who get the vaccine – we could be robbing their teenage years from them,” he exclaimed.
“We’re not trying to scaremonger – I’ve been subjected to a lot of abuse on social media since I raised this. But these girls are very sick, they’re totally debilitated, their personalities have changed. The doctors’ hands are tied because this is public health policy.”
Mary would dearly like a holistic assessment of her daughter’s condition so that an overall plan of action could be drawn up together by medics across the specialities.
“Denmark and Japan have clinics up and running and protocols there to treat these girls. We want to be able to go to a GP without being dismissed, without being told it’s in their heads. Say that to a girl who is a bungling mess, who can’t put on her clothes because of the horrific pain, who can’t brush her teeth or even stand up.”
*Names changed or not used to protect the privacy of the girls
First pub in County Galway to be convicted over Covid breach
A County Galway publican has become the first in the county convicted of breaching Covid-19 regulations after 70 customers were found on his premises during the partial lockdown last year.
Tuam Court was told that when the Gardaí entered the premises at Tierney’s of Foxhall, there was very little social distancing – and no food being served, as was the requirement at the time.
Proprietor Tom Kelly was prosecuted for the breach of Covid-19 regulations which carries a maximum penalty of €5,000.
After Judge James Faughnan was informed that it was an extremely large premises in rural North Galway, he remarked that when so many people are allowed into a pub, no matter how big, it is extremely difficult to control them.
Prosecuting Sergeant Christy Browne explained that several months ago there had been opposition for the renewal of the publican’s licence on the grounds of alleged breaches of Covid regulations.
He said that, on August 30 last, there were 70 people on the premises, at a time during the pandemic when there was the requirement to purchase a €9 meal before being served a drink.
Sergeant Browne explained that when the premises was inspected, there was no social distancing, there was no food being served and no evidence of food receipts.
Defending solicitor Gearoid Geraghty said that his client ran a huge premises that can accommodate 227 customers and added that his customers were spread among three separate sections of the premises.
While there have been objections to the renewal of publicans’ licences by the Gardaí for breaches of the guidelines, this was the first criminal prosecution that has taken place in County Galway.
Tom Kelly with an address of Corohan, Tuam, the proprietor of Tierney’s of Foxhall, was charged with breaching a regulation to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19. It relates to an alleged breach that occurred on August 30 last year.
The same defendant had been the subject of an objection to his licence by Garda Inspector John Dunne a number of months ago. He was ordered to pay €500 towards a charity at the time.
The Inspector had opposed the renewal of the licences for what he said were breaches of Covid guidelines during the course of inspections carried out when the situation was relaxed during the course of 2020.
Galway recycling company run by Travellers fronts national campaign
A Galway company which employs Travellers to recycle mattresses and wooden furniture has been picked to front a national campaign urging the public to support their local social enterprises which are seen as crucial in the post-Covid recovery.
Bounce Back Recycling has this month also been nominated for top green company in the country.
Social enterprises are businesses that operate mainly to improve people’s lives and achieve a social or environmental impact. While they trade in goods and services like other businesses, the difference is they reinvest their profits to achieve core social objectives.
Bounce Back Recycling provides a mattress and furniture recycling service to domestic and commercial clients as well as several local authorities from its base in Ballybane.
There are currently twelve members of the Traveller community who manage and run the social enterprise, with plans to employ a further four workers as it expands.
Workers deconstruct the mattresses and furniture by hand, a labour intensive and time-consuming process.
The steel from mattresses is sold on to a local steel recycling company while the foam is sent to a UK company to make carpet underlay. The textile or covering is compressed and sent to landfill.
Manager Martin Ward explains that between 75 and 80 per cent of the mattress is recycled.
Mattresses that normally end up in the landfill only start to decompose after 15 years – elements such as polyurethane foam and steel springs can take up to 100 years and 50 years respectively to break down.
Since 2017, the company has diverted 50,000 mattresses from landfill.
“In Galway we dispose of 30,000 mattresses annually and they’re going to landfill through a waste company or are illegally dumped. We identified a gap in the market for Connacht and Ulster as there was nobody recycling mattresses here,” he reveals.
The company received funding to set up but is dependent on users to cover ongoing costs such as wages.
It started off with 3,000 items in its first year collecting from around Galway. Last year it processed 20,000 pieces, operating across ten counties, with plans to expand nationwide. They are also preparing to open a unit in Sandy Road where they will upcycle and reupholster furniture and sell directly to the public.
“We’re happy to be part of this ‘The Future is Social’ campaign by Rethink Ireland to support social enterprises which deliver so many other positive impacts for every euro spent.
“Everyone is much more aware of doing their bit for the environment and we hope to be recycling 100,000 items by 2025,” says Martin.
Bounce Back Recycling charges between €15 and €25 for a mattress and €10 for collection.
“We run a collection service and only charge one delivery fee, regardless if it’s one or ten items. We’ve a big demand in Connemara because there is no civic amenity site so people who want to do the right thing for the environment don’t have any access to a facility.”
Bounce Back Recycling has been nominated as a finalist in the Green NGO (Non Government Organisation) of the Year.
It is among 40 companies which have received money from the Social Enterprise Development Fund. Nationally they employ 500 people, mainly from minority groups, generating €22 million in turnover.
The ‘Future is social’ campaign will provide regional webinars, information and resources about social enterprises.
Headford’s plans for public park and gardens
Plans to create a new public park and gardens in the heart of Headford were unveiled this week.
Headford Community Garden and Headford Men’s Shed have submitted a proposal to the Headford Development Association to create the park on the lands adjacent to their gardens in Balrickard.
A rewilded, multi-habitat park would transform outdoor living in the town and provide a much-needed greenspace that would be accessible to all – offering a relaxing setting for all ages and abilities.
The promoters also hope that the project would act as a model for other Irish towns, with Headford becoming a leading example of how parkland and greenspace can help to revitalise rural settlements.
“This proposal for a park and gardens in Headford will create a quiet natural space in the centre of town for all to access and enjoy. It is a project that will benefit the people and the businesses of the town and surrounding areas for generations to come,” said Aengus McMahon, spokesperson for Headford Park and Gardens.
Within the park the emphasis will be on biodiversity; the planting of native trees, introduction of biodiverse meadow spaces with mown paths, walking trails, picnic and play areas.
The existing gardens and new parkland will serve as an outdoor classroom for use by local schools.
There are existing plans for Presentation College Headord’s Seomra Seoda to utilise Headford Community Garden for outdoor classes. The park will be fully inclusive and accessible to all.
The space will also include an outdoor cultural space for concerts, theatre shows and special events.
“During the Covid lockdowns, it was our walks in the rural countryside and wild landscapes that provided therapy for both mind and body,” said Brendan Smith of the Galway National Park City initiative.
“So, in a post Covid world it is important that, for the health of human society and of the planet, we integrate green and blue spaces into the fabric of our cities, towns and villages,” he added.
Recently Galway’s County Councillors unanimously supported a proposal to fund a feasibility study to examine the development potential of a cycleway and greenway from the Galway city to Headford. The park would be the perfect landing site for a future greenway.
Groups already sharing the existing garden area include Tidy Towns, environmental groups, Scouts, Headford Lace Project, Yarn Bombers, Meals on Wheels and Ability West.