The death of 14-yearl-old British schoolgirl Natalie Morton shortly after receiving an HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer was due to a large malignant tumor in her chest and not due to the vaccine.
In a statement issued late morning on Thursday, Dr Caron Grainger, Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Coventry and Coventry City Council, the health authority of the city where Natalie lived and went to school, said:
“The pathologist has confirmed today at the opening of the inquest into the death of Natalie Morton that she died from a large malignant tumour of unknown origin in the heart and lungs.”
“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,” she added, explaining that she hoped the news will:
“Reassure parents that the vaccine is safe and that they should continue to encourage their daughters to be protected against cervical cancer.”
Coventry’s HPV vaccination programme will resume as planned on Monday said the city’s health authorities.
Natalie was taken ill shortly after receiving the Cervarix vaccine on Monday at Blue Coat Church of England School; she died later at Coventry’s University Hospital.
According to the BBC, Louise Hunt, deputy coroner for Coventry, who opened the inquest at Coventry Magistrates’ Court said it appeared that Natalie died from a tumor in her chest “involving her heart and her lungs”. The tumor was said to have “heavily infiltrated” her heart and gone into her left lung.
A pathologist from the Home Office told the court that her condition, which was undiagnosed, was so severe that she could have died at any point.
Meanwhile tributes to Natalie and words of sympathy for her family are pouring into the book of condolences on her school’s website.
Flowers and messages have also been left at the cross in the school grounds.
Natalie’s mother Elaine Bullock and stepfather Andrew Bullock paid tribute to their daughter after the inquest. They said she was a wonderful daughter, sister and granddaughter, and that she was a “kind and fun-loving teenager with a beautiful smile”.
They also thanked the school, head teacher and staff, the paramedics and the hospital staff, and said that while they now knew that Natalie’s death was due to an underlying medical condition and not the HPV vaccine, they believed further tests were still going to be carried out to establish the exact cause of Natalie’s death.
Natalie’s death sparked concern around the UK, where there is an ongoing campaign to vaccinate teenage girls against strains of HPV that cause over 70 per cent of all cervical cancers. In the UK the vaccine is expected to prevent up to 400 deaths due to cervical cancer every year.
There are more than 100 types of HPV (human papillomavirus) and half of all sexually active women will be infected by at least one strain in their lifetime.
1.4 million girls in the UK have safely received the Cervarix vaccine so far, according to the Department of Health, and several million others have been given it around the world.
As a precautionary measure, while awaiting the post mortem results, the vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) voluntarily recalled the batch (No AHPVA043BB) of HPV vaccine that Natalie had received, and the Department of Health asked the NHS to quarantine all stocks of HPV vaccine from the batch.
However, as soon as it was known that Natalie’s death was not caused by the vaccine, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health, Professor David M Salisbury, wrote to all GPs and school nurses asking them to continue with the HPV immunization programme.
Sources: NHS Coventry, Department of Health, BBC News, Blue Coat Church of England School.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD