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October 2, 2009

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Vaccine-death girl 'had tumor'

THE teenage girl who died just after being immunized against cervical cancer was killed by a malignant chest tumor and not by a reaction to the vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline, an inquest heard in London yesterday.

Natalie Morton, 14, fell ill on Monday after being vaccinated with Cervarix at her school under a national immunization program against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV).

She died a few hours later after being admitted to hospital.

"The pathologist has confirmed at the opening of the inquest into the death of Natalie Morton that she died from a large malignant tumor of unknown origin in the heart and lungs," said Dr Caron Grainger, joint director of public health for the Coventry area where Natalie died.

"There is no indication that the HPV vaccine, which she had received shortly before her death, was a contributing factor to the death, which could have arisen at any point," Grainger said in a statement.

In paying tribute to Natalie, her stepfather Andrew Bullock said she was "kind, fun-loving and had a beautiful smile. We will miss her very much."

Batch recalled

The Department of Health said the immunization program was continuing and that to date more than 1.4 million doses of Cervarix had been administered.

GlaxoSmithKline had recalled the batch of vaccine used at the school pending an investigation.

"GSK's deepest sympathies lie with the parents at this very sad time," said a spokeswoman yesterday adding that she did not want to comment further.

The somewhat controversial program to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 began in September 2008 to fight cervical cancer, which is the 12th most common women's cancer in Britain, killing more than 1,000 each year.

News of Morton's death came shortly before United States health regulators and experts again delayed a decision on whether to allow GlaxoSmithKline to sell Cervarix in the US where a panel of specialists has recommended its use.

An advisory panel to Japan's Health Ministry backed the vaccine earlier this week.


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