By Jackelyn Barnard
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Brittany is a twelve-year-old girl who doesn't like to sit still. She's played softball. She ran cross country. The plan was to stay on the team and get a college scholarship, but two months ago, those plans drastically changed.
"She was walking through my house and collapsed. She told me she couldn't feel her leg. We went right to the hospital," says Christina Bell, Brittany's mom.
Bell says there were no answers at first, but then she started to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Two weeks before her daughter's collapse, Brittany received her first injection of a vaccine called Gardasil.
"The doctor recommended we get the Gardasil shot and I'd been thinking about it because I've seen it on TV all the time," says Bell.
The vaccine, produced by Merck, is to help prevent contracting the Human Papillomavirus or HPV.
The virus causes 70 percent of cervical cancer.
Over the last year, the vaccine has been the center of moral controversy, but little has been mentioned about the number of vaccine reactions reported to the FDA.
Recent news reports link an association with paralysis and death with the vaccine.
"The reason I'm skeptical with this is this isn't a virus," says Dr. Guy Benrubi, an OB/GYN with Shands.
Dr. Benrubi says the HPV vaccine is one of the safest and he recommended it to his own child.
"The immediate risks are minimal. The FDA looked at those. We have not seen any major catastrophes," says Dr. Benrubi.
Benrubi says the majority of complaints are patients fainting during or after the shot.
So far, more than four million vaccinations have been done and nearly 4,000 adverse reactions have been reported.
"Even the worst case scenario, if you have four thousand in four million that is a one to one thousand potential adverse effect," says Dr. Benrubi.
The list of complaints range from temporary blindness, blurry vision, convulsions, seizures and numbness in arms and legs that won't go away.
"If you know something is happening why do you let it continue?" asks Bob Giuliano, Brittany's grandfather.
Giuliano and his daughter want answers as to how they didn't know paralysis could be a possibility for Brittany.
"I am very angry," says Brittany's mom. Two months later and after hours of physical therapy, Brittany still has no feeling in her left leg.
Getting around is difficult. It's hard for Brittany to walk and balance and she often needs a little help.
"She's mad. I can tell she's mad," says Brittany's mom. A little shy, Brittany did not want to talk to us, but she did want her story told so parents and young girls know how her life has changed.
Now she is learning to cope with braces, crutches and a walker. "It's changed everything for us," says Bell.
Brittany's doctors have diagnosed her with Acute Demyelinating Encephalomyelitis or ADEM. It is an inflammation of the brain that has been associated with a vaccination.
"I think there is a little cart before the horse going on here. I'm not saying this is not a good vaccine, but anyone who is going to have their daughter or child have this shot, they need to be fully informed of risks or potential risks associated with it," says Sean Cronin, Brittany's attorney.
Cronin says he can't go after Merck with a lawsuit because Gardasil is now part of a federal fund which pays out to those injured from vaccines.
First Coast News has learned, Gardasil was added to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund just months after it hit the market. "The Federal government would not put it on the list without medical scientific justification," says Cronin.
Brittany's family is filing an injury claim with the government.
They are also on a mission to spread the news of what they say can happen with the vaccine.
The family also holds out hope that one day, old Brittany will be back walking and running like she did once before.
"I do wish the doctor would have known and would have said there is a chance that this could happen. If he would have said, I would have never done it," says Bell.
The FDA told First Coast News the adverse reaction reports are not a good indicator of a direct cause or relation with an incident. The FDA also says they have investigated several deaths but did not find any association with the vaccine.
Merck told First Coast News it is unaware of Brittany's case. Merck also says it actively monitors the adverse reaction reports and other databases throughout the world.
As for the vaccine being added to the government vaccine fund, Merck says it is their understanding that all new vaccines are added to the fund.
The Pharmaceutical giant says the latest numbers show that ten million HPV vaccines have been given in the United States.
Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System
CDC: Information on HPV
First Coast News