LE MONDE

First Lawsuits Against Controversial Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Though no widespread risk had been identified since the release of the Gardasil vaccine, several young French women have suffered what they say are brutal side effects from what was supposed to protect them from cervical cancer.

Opinions vary on the costs and benefits of the cervical cancer vaccine
Opinions vary on the costs and benefits of the cervical cancer vaccine
Emeline Cazi

RIVES - Their mothers thought they were doing the right thing: protecting their daughters against a disease -- cervical cancer – that had been so gravely depicted on television and radio commercials, and was even the subject of a feature film.

But now, Gardasil, the vaccine the two teenagers took after it was put on the market in France back in November of 2006, has transformed their lives into a nightmare, say Laura Agnès, 16, and Laëtitia Celli, 20.

The two young French women recount how their days are interrupted by unpredictable paralysis, headaches and unbearable stomach aches that they say began after the vaccination that was distributed throughout France by Sanofi Pasteur MSD laboratory.

Last week, they sent a claim for indemnification to the Commission of Conciliation and Compensation for Medical Accidents (RCCI) in Lyon. Their lawyer describes the complaint: "The first problems occurred after their injections, and these young girls were in good health before, and there is no previous case of problems in their family."

A vaccine "released blindly"?

Agnès, who lives in Rives, in eastern France, had dreams of being a nurse. "Doctors have advised against the vaccine. However, for this profession, some are obligatory," her mother, Stephanie Agnès, explains. Influenced by the television spots, she decided to have her daughter vaccinated in 2009, when she was 14 years old. "She had not asked for it. I poisoned her. The numbers shocked me. On the news, they were showing women who were victims of this cancer. I told myself that they could not have released this vaccine blindly."

The first medical problems arose several weeks after the first injection: tingling, followed by paralysis in the left leg. It took Laura three months to recover normal use of her leg. At the second injection, when the elbow is touched, the neurologist believed it was a genetic disease, but he found nothing. Results of blood analysis were also good. "During this time, my daughter was going to school as much as she could," her mother says. Laura had to repeat her eighth grade

For Laëtitia Celli, from Digne-les-Bains in southern France, it was also her mother who pushed her to get the vaccine. "Even though she didn't want it," says Rachel Celli, wife of a police officer. "But they scared the hell out of me with their messages." The side effects arose the evening of the first injection: fever, nausea, and dizziness. At the second injection, Laëtitia, then in the 11th grade, describes "a stabbing in her stomach. It was unbearable. The dizziness and the vomiting would come suddenly every two or three days. I had to stop going to class."

Celli describes a life transformed. "I was energetic, I did sports, I saw my friends, and, from one day to the next, it became hell for me. I could no longer even go to the movies, since the light bothered me. At 20 years, I still had other things to do, right?"

Establishing a connection

In response, Sanofi Pasteur sent them to the French Agency for the Safety of Medical Products, which has received 1,700 claims for Gardasil that, like any new medicine registered at the European level, was the subject of a risk assessment plan. These claims concern "essentially the fever during the days just after the injection," says Bernard Delorme, the person responsible for patient and public information.

Some cases of autoimmune diseases were found, "but not more than for other vaccines," he adds. "The proportion of undesirable, serious side effects is the same as those that naturally occur in this segment of the population." In order for these young girls to be compensated, the experts at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry have to establish a link between the vaccine and the symptoms. But as of yet, no doctor has formally discovered this connection.

In Laura Agnès's case, the hospital at Voiron mentions, nevertheless, a "chronic polyradiculoneuropathic condition, probably due to the Gardasil injection." Another medical center in Grenoble, after having observed the "chronology of appearance" of the side effects, judged that, "to be prudent, due to the cost/benefit relationship, the third injection of Gardasil should be skipped."

As for Celli, she has latched onto statements from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry: "Finally someone has started to believe me, and find a solution to my pain."

Read the original story in French

Photo- rachel a. k.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ