HPV vaccine forum turns emotional
Indianapolis WISH-TV Thursday, 19 Jan 2012
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Tears, anger and recriminations marked an emotionally charged forum meant to educate the public about the HPV vaccine Wednesday night.
At the forum, held at the community room of public television station WFYI in Indianapolis, IU Health scientist Darron Brown, one of the creators of the Gardasil vaccine, along with other HPV vaccine advocates, were on the defensive when parents confronted them with questions about the vaccine’s safety.
“And I don’t – I don’t understand why you’re attacking me personally,” said a bewildered Brown as parent, Jill Turkupolis, pummeled him with questions about his failure to respond to her repeated e-mails about her daughter’s health problems following the Gardasil vaccination.
Turkupolis wasn’t the only parent with tough questions for the panel.
Marco Dominguez told the panel his teenage daughter is suffering repeated seizures after getting Gardasil.
And Gary Harris, a father of three teenage girls, said two of his daughters are suffering debilitating physical and neurological symptoms. His daughters cried as Harris told the panel his girls were healthy athletes before getting Gardasil.
But scientists insisted the vaccine – meant to prevent cervical cancer – is safe and effective.
Kirk Forbes, a Noblesville resident who lost his daughter to cervical cancer, strongly encouraged parents to vaccinate their daughters.
He was followed by Heather Banks, an elementary school teacher and cervical cancer survivor. She told the audience that she wishes she had the opportunity to have gotten the vaccination as a teenager.
But parents of sick children were unconvinced.
“I’m sorry about what you’ve suffered,” Turkupolis told Forbes and Banks. “But I don’t think Gardasil is the answer.”
She told the panel of HPV vaccine advocates that her daughter, Maddie, began suffering debilitating symptoms days after getting the vaccine. For four years she has sought out specialists, none of whom have been able to help her daughter.
“She loses her hair in chunks,” said Turkupolis. “She breaks out in rashes. She has muscle pain where she cannot move, and these seizure-like episodes are the absolute worst.”
But IU School of Medicine psychologist Gregory Zimet, who seemed shocked by the tough questions the panel was getting from partents, cautioned against making a direct correlation to the vaccine in such cases.
“I would challenge your 100 percent firm conclusion that this is the vaccine, because there is no way to determine that,” he said.
Equally surprised was Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine. She tried to comfort and reassure worried parents, telling them that her team would follow up on any complaints of vaccine side-effects. She encouraged them to call the Marion County Health Department so that her epidemiologists could examine the issue.
“It could be a bad batch,” she told the audience. “We just don’t know.”
I-team-8’s Deanna Dewberry has been investigating the HPV vaccine for months . She attended Wednesday’s forum, sponsored by the Indiana Immunization Coalition, as part of that continued investigation.