Serious AEFI: Day 2

Political opposition criticizes government

  • An opposition politician noted that the government had chosen the vaccine product used and suggested that the competitor’s vaccine could have been a safer option. He called for safety data to be published.

There are currently two HPV vaccines licensed by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA). The EMEA is responsible for the scientific evaluation of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the European Union.

As part of standard procedure, the manufacturer submits safety data for a European product license. All safety data are available to the public on the EMEA website.

Manufacturer recalls vaccine batch

  • Manufacturer voluntarily recalled vaccine batch.

The UK DH communications team opposed this because of the implications for public opinion—they feared people would lose confidence in the vaccine programme. In the end, the media did not perceive a difference between the vaccine quarantine and recall, so this never became an issue. To see manufacturer’s press release click here.

National health department (UK DH) waits for new information

  • National health department decided not to respond to political opposition claims and followed their policy against making additional statements until new information was available.
  • There was concern it could be days before the results of the autopsy were known. Internal intelligence allowed communications officers to brief journalists with whom they had a relationship not to go overboard in any speculation that the vaccine caused the death until further evidence was known.

Preliminary post-mortem results

  • In the evening, preliminary autopsy results found that the girl’s death was due to a rare serious underlying medical condition and that the vaccination did not play a role in her death.

UK DH contacts the media

  • At about 9:30 PM UK DH communication officers urgently began contacting TV news teams, followed by the Press Association, and newspapers in time for the 10 PM UK television news programmes, and to reverse any negative headlines in the next day’s papers.

Even though the autopsy results were preliminary and the girl’s family did not want information released immediately, the UK DH commu­ni­ca­ti­ons department convinced authorities of the need to get the information out immediately.

"It was a crucial moment in which we did manage to impact on broadcast news and some of the next day’s papers. Sadly it came a bit too late in the day for some print coverage. The health journalists had gone home, the story was laid out on page, we could only deal with the general news desks."

They were at least successful in getting some of the headlines changed, even if the main body text of the story read as before.

High media interest

  • Interest in story remains high,
  • Evening broadcast news (10 PM) reported preliminary post-mortem results.