The Cries of the Vaccine’s Victims

The Cries of the Vaccine’s Victims

The adverse reactions to cervical cancer vaccine are severe. Some girls are afflicted with severe conditions that even adults would find hard to endure: “You vomit like your guts are coming up.” “You suffer terrible pain that feels as if your eyes are being spooned out.” “The headaches feel like someone is pounding your head with a hammer.” On July 6 we interviewed a couple of victims in Tokyo to hear what they have to say and find out what their suffering is really like.

The Case of Ms. A: Agony she can get no one to understand

Ms. A (aged 14, now in the third grade of junior high school) received an injection of Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine made by Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp., at the end of August 2012, when she was in the second grade of junior high school. Ms. A’s mother had watched her own mother suffer from cervical cancer, so she encouraged her daughter to get the shot thinking they could expect it to have a lifelong preventive effect. Shortly after Ms. A was vaccinated, however, she began to suffer from headaches, rashes, and coughs. Furthermore, by late September she suddenly began to experience generalized seizures.

Her mother describes what they were like: “Her whole body would jump about like a fish that was just hooked and pulled out of the water. She would shake like that all around the room, and even after her body had been struck all over, the spasms wouldn’t subside. They would last for 24 hours, and they went on for three months.” We asked Ms. A about what it felt like when she had a seizure. “I would no longer be able to control my own body,” she says. “Some of the girls who are suffering cry from the pain, but I don’t have any pain. During my spasms I just think, ‘Please stop soon’ and ‘Why won’t you stop?’”

Ms. A had never missed a day of either elementary or junior high school before she began experiencing these reactions. She started her third year of junior high this spring, but because she has been experiencing terrible seizures every day, she has been able to go to school normally only two or three times. “Going to school is difficult because there have been times when her eyelids spasm and she can’t keep them open,” her mother explains.

              Just the other day she took her end-of-term exams separately from her classmates, but her spasms would not stop during the exam. “The spasms were happening only with my lower body, so I was able to take the exam,” Ms. A says. “But once I had spasms during class, and all of my classmates became hysterical. . . . What I worry about now is whether or not I’ll be able to go on to senior high and whether or not I’ll be able to graduate. I want to go to school. I want my body to go back to the way it was.”

Her mother continues to work, but she limits herself to two or three hours of sleep at night and has been doing thorough research into reactions to Gardasil and treatment methods. They have been to any number of hospitals for tests, but the results have all come back announcing “no abnormalities.” The doctors have told them the causes are “unknown” and suggested it might be a psychological issue. They have been skeptical about them being adverse reactions to the vaccine, which they simply reject as being “impossible.” Despairing at the thought that no one believes or understands her, Ms. A decided to let herself be interviewed on television out of the belief that if footage of herself having spasms was shown and the issue was raised with the public at large, other children with the same condition might come forward.

At first glance, Ms. A seems to be a normal, healthy girl—so much so that this reporter might have mistaken her for one of the reporter’s sisters rather than a person who suffers from her condition. However, Ms. A does not know when her seizures will occur, or how long they will last when one does happen. That is the condition with which she has been saddled.

Caption: Video of the victim released to the public. Struck by a spasm she can do nothing about.

The Case of Ms. B.: A tragedy born out of parental love for a daughter

Ms. B (aged 16, now in the second grade of senior high school) had practiced kendo ever since elementary school and was skilled enough to be captain of the kendo club at her junior high. When her mother heard that cervical cancer could be prevented “right now and for free,” she thought, “We have to take this step!” Ms. B received three injections of GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix cervical cancer vaccine in February 2012 while she was in the third grade of junior high school. Six months later, however, she found herself experiencing headaches, stomachaches, eye pain, and generalized seizures in which her body would move involuntarily. The seizures were so severe that standing was almost impossible. What’s more, the seizures were accompanied by pain. However, Ms. B. says it’s still not so bad for her, explaining that “there are some girls who pass out from the pain.”

Ms. B has been to countless hospitals since the seizures began. She has found her way to almost every clinical department—orthopedic surgeons for knee pains, internists for stomach pains, neurosurgeons for headaches—but the causes of her conditions remain unclear. Told by doctors that her seizures were odd ones they had never seen before and might be psychological in nature, she wound up going to a psychiatrist. There they were diagnosed as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. However, there is no established method of treatment for the condition. Painkillers are ineffective, and her symptoms even got worse after she took the prescribed medicine. Ms. B and her mother asked one doctor about the possibility that her seizures were a reaction to the vaccine, but the physician simply dismissed the idea, saying, “I cannot confirm a reaction that the Health Ministry does not confirm.”

The seizures have not stopped since then, either. “Sometimes a big one will suddenly come,” says Ms. B. “It is followed by smaller ones every day that gradually go away. Just when I start to feel relieved and think that maybe I’m finally OK, wham, another big one comes. This happens over and over.” “The hardest thing,” her mother says, “is that when she has a seizure, her arms and legs move about involuntarily, and her whole body spasms. There’s nothing I can do. I want to rub her body, but because she’s sometimes suddenly struck by pains in the parts I touch, all I can do is look over her. I want to do something for her, but I can’t do anything.”

Just when they were confused about what to do with a condition whose cause was unknown and for which there was no treatment, a television program aired a feature on the problems with cervical cancer vaccines and showed video of sufferers. By then they had forgotten about the vaccination, but they realized that the victims’ symptoms were exactly the same as Ms. B’s. They then contacted the victims’ network, which led to where they are today.

Ms. B’s mother is forthright about her state of mind. “I regret having encouraged my daughter to get vaccinated,” she says. Ms. B interrupts her, crying, “Mom, you don’t have to blame yourself,” But her mother shakes her off. “It’s alright,” she says. “I want them to report how your mother really feels. That’s why I agreed to being interviewed for the story. I don’t want any other families to have to experience what we’ve been through. I want the government to halt the vaccinations right away.”

We concluded the interview by asking Ms. B how she feels. “My mother did absolutely nothing wrong,” she says. “To the contrary, I’m grateful that she was thinking about me and encouraged me to get vaccinated. I’m thankful. But I think the government officials and doctors who recommended it are nuts. Please don’t let anyone else go through the same thing that we have.”

At those words, her mother suddenly covered her eyes with a handkerchief to hide her tears.