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Investigation into death of 12-year-old continues

Rebecca Prohaska reflects on her daughter Meredith, a 12-year-old who died six hours after receiving a series of HPV vaccinations on July 30. Waukesha police said Friday they are continuing to investigate the case.
Rebecca Prohaska reflects on her daughter Meredith, a 12-year-old who died six hours after receiving a series of HPV vaccinations on July 30. Waukesha police said Friday they are continuing to investigate the case. Credit: Rick Wood
Aug. 08, 2014
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By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 08, 2014 0

UPDATE: Girl's death not caused by vaccination, medical examiner says

Waukesha police are continuing their investigation into the death of a 12-year-old girl whose mother found her unresponsive in their home.

"There is no indication of wrongdoing, but the cause of death has not been determined," Waukesha Capt. Ron Oremus said Friday. "That is something we rely on the medical examiner's office to do. Until that determination is made, we won't close the case."

Rebecca Prohaska believes her daughter Meredith may have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine for human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, which she said was given at a physician's office around 10:30 a.m. on July 30, less than six hours before the girl died.

Oremus said the mother's belief that the vaccine is to blame is speculation.

"It is simply premature," Oremus said. "We have the experts looking into it. It's clearly a tragic death, and the mother understandably is an emotional party in this."

What is known is that at 4:15 p.m. on July 30, Rebecca Prohaska called police. She said she had come home from an errand and found her daughter unresponsive and lying face down on the living room floor. Prohaska began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Meredith had vomited. Her lips were purple. She was not breathing and did not have a pulse. Her 6-year-old sister, Margaret, was lying beside her trying to cuddle, according to her mother.

An autopsy is being performed.

"Any loss of a child is a terrible loss for the family and a tragedy for the entire community," said Denise Uyar, an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology.

Uyar said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel that she couldn't comment on the Prohaska case directly because she has no knowledge of the circumstances and medical situation.

"What we can comment on is the significant contribution that vaccinations play in preventing serious illnesses, including Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection," Uyar said.

"It is believed that through HPV vaccination and screening, most cervical cancers in the U.S. could be prevented. The HPV vaccine is administered under specified clinical guidelines, as are all vaccinations. A severe reaction to a vaccination, such as an allergic reaction, is a rare complication that can occur after administration of any medication, not just vaccination, whether in the clinic or home setting."

The HPV vaccine has been administered since its FDA approval in 2006 with an excellent safety record, Uyar said.

About 2 million doses of HPV vaccine are administered in the U.S. every year, she noted, adding: "There are less than two anaphylactic reactions per million doses administered, and health care professionals make every effort to prevent such reactions from occurring."

Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Karen Herzog thumbnail
About Karen Herzog

Karen Herzog covers higher education. She also has covered public health and was part of a national award-winning team that took on Milwaukee's infant mortality crisis.

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