School nurses have been advised to continue to follow government guidelines on offering the HPV vaccination, while reassuring pupils and parents that the vaccine is safe.
The advice follows the case of 14 year-old Natalie Morton, who died last week shortly after having a routine HPV vaccination. An inquest carried out last week revealed the teenager had a large malignant tumour, and her death has not been linked to the vaccine.
However some of national media coverage surrounding the case was reminiscent of that which led to a crisis in public confidence in MMR.
Unite/CPHVA lead professional officer Ros Godson said school nurses should continue to reassure parents of the HPV vaccine’s safety and educate young girls about the importance of being immunised. “Nurses know that nothing is completely risk free, but the evidence does show that the vaccine is safe,” she said.
“School nurses should go into classrooms and educate pupils about the vaccine, and why it is important that young girls protect themselves against cervical cancer. That way, when they have the vaccine they are giving informed consent,” she added.
Meeting with the parents of young girls to address any concerns they may have about the vaccine could help prevent a situation arising similar to the one a few years ago when the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, said Ms Godson.
“At the moment, this death is being seen as one off. Nurses should follow guidelines and protocols and reassure parents who have got cold feet,” she added.
“However, this vaccine is about individual immunity, not herd immunity, and if the parents of a 12-year old girl do have serious concerns, it may be in the best interests of the child to wait and have the vaccine the following year when the situation will be clearer. But this may not be appropriate for the older cohort so nurses should still meet with parents to discuss their concerns,” she added.
The Department of Health and the RCN have also urged nurses to continue following guidance and protocols on offering the vaccine to young girls.
An RCN spokesperson said: “It has now been confirmed that the tragic death of schoolgirl Natalie Morton was not caused the HPV vaccination and we would encourage members to continue following guidance issued by DH regarding offering the vaccination to schoolgirls.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has recalled the batch the vaccine came from as a precautionary measure while they conduct further investigations into Ms Morton’s death.