Online retailer Amazon has launched an investigation after a mother in the UK reportedly found an anti-vaccination leaflet tucked into a book she’d bought for her 12-year-old son.
Lucy Boyle, from Hampshire, told the Guardian that she’d bought her son a copy of Night Speakers by Ali Sparkes off Amazon.
But she was shocked when her son came downstairs asking about the leaflet, which claimed that the HPV vaccine — that her son was due to have at school — could cause “injury, infertility, paralysis … ovarian failure, and death, among other conditions.”
Boyle told the Guardian her son was worried about having the vaccine after reading the leaflet, and asked her, “What is this, isn’t this the jab I’m going to have at school?”
She continued: “I was just about to bin it when I thought, ‘Hold on a minute, that was quite targeted. It will have been put knowingly into a book read by 11- to 14-year-olds.’”
Concerns have been raised that the anti-vaccination movement is targeting children via Amazon, after a Hampshire mother found a leaflet condemning the HPV vaccine tucked inside a children’s book she had purchased from the online retailer.#VaccinesWork— HawkEye 2020💥 (@2HawkEye2020) April 29, 2019
“That’s not targeting the parents, that’s targeting the children,” she added. “It really left a bad taste in my mouth.”
The news has also raised questions about whether just this single book had been affected, or whether multiple books would have been targeted.
Both Amazon and the Oxford University Press (the book’s publisher) reportedly said they had found no evidence that the leaflet originated from either of their sites.
OUP has said it is working with Amazon to work out where the leaflet came from.
“We are extremely sorry to hear that this has caused distress to the customer and her family,” a spokesperson for OUP told Newsweek. “We take this matter very seriously and are continuing to investigate how this happened. We remain in close contact with Amazon on this matter and will inform the customer of any developments.”
The news comes as World Immunisation Week, celebrated in the last week of April every year, draws to a close. The awareness week, spearheaded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.
“Immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions,” reads the WHO website. “Yet, there are still nearly 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today.”
The HPV vaccine protects against human papillomavirus (HPV) — a group of common viruses that are sexually transmitted, with some types being linked to cervical cancer.
Girls in the UK have routinely been vaccinated against HPV since 2008, at age 12 and 13, and the roll-out has prompted a significant drop in cases in Britain.
The British government has announced that all boys aged 12 to 13 across the UK will also be eligible for the vaccine from September, with the new school year.
Earlier this month, a team of researchers at Scottish universities showed that the universal roll-out of the HPV vaccine has “exceeded expectations” — nearly wiping out cases of cervical pre-cancer in young women.
Dr. Kevin Pollock, from Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “The main message is that the vaccine works. As long as the high uptake continues, the virus has got nowhere to go and it is being eliminated.”
Girls can get the vaccination for free on the NHS up until their 18th birthdays — with about 90% of girls in Scotland reportedly getting the vaccine.
The researchers highlighted in their findings that nowhere, including in the Scottish study, had any serious side-effects been demonstrably linked to the vaccine.
Tim Palmer, from the University of Edinburgh and clinical lead for cervical screening in Scotland, said that immunisation “offers the only feasible solution to preventing a cancer the cause of which is well established … in those areas of the world where the burden of the disease is greatest.
“It is also the most cost effective method in developed countries,” he added.
The findings in Scotland reflect further research published in the journal Lancet Oncology in February, that claimed scaling up HPV vaccinations and cervical screening programmes could lead to the global elimination of the cancer in 181 countries between 2020 and 2099.
Global Citizen Prize at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Dec. 13 is the first major event in our 2020 campaign, Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream. The year-long campaign will focus on three crucial areas: the climate crisis, gender equality, and human capital — empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty through access to quality education, nutritious food, and universal health systems. Vaccinations are one of the most effective ways to ensure good health and end preventable deaths, in line with the UN’s Global Goal 3 for health and wellbeing.
Next year will be vital for global health efforts, with the UK set to continue its world-leading efforts on health by hosting a major global conference on vaccines — a replenishment moment for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi’s efforts over the past two decades have already seen more than 700 million children vaccinated, and 10 million lives saved as a result. You can join the movement to end extreme poverty and ensure that everyone has access to vaccines by taking action with us here.