Alberta father angry his son received HPV vaccine against the family’s wishes
A central Alberta family is angry with Alberta Health Services (AHS) after their son was accidentally given a vaccine they had not consented to.
As part of routine immunizations in Alberta, most students in Grade 5 receive, over the course of six months, three doses of both the Hepatitis B vaccine and Gardasil — the vaccine that prevents the human papillomavirus (HPV) sexually transmitted infection.
Then in Grade 9, students go through another round of three vaccinations: one for diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, polio (dTap), a meningococcal conjugate (MenC-ACYW) vaccine, and for some boys, a catch-up series of the HPV vaccine.
On Monday, during the most recent round of routine inoculations involving several grades at his school in Wetaskiwin, John Tomkinson said one of his sons was accidentally given a dose of Gardasil.
“Our son was in line to get the vaccines that we had approved, and as it turns out the Alberta Health Services nurses made an error — they call it an “unfortunate error” — and went and administered additional vaccines to our son without our consent and without his knowledge,” Tomkinson told Global News.
Tomkinson said his wife Melissa found out later in the day when she got a call at home from the nurse, who apologized for the mix-up.
“My wife was quite upset and distraught and called me. I was actually at work at the time.”
Tomkinson stressed they are not against all immunizations and have vaccinated their children against other diseases, but made a conscious decision not to go with the HPV vaccine.
“However notwithstanding that, to have anybody in the medical profession administering to a minor something without parental consent that they deem necessary on their own is the shocking bit.”
Tomkinson is a former trustee with the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic Schools, a division south of Edmonton. He opposed the division’s policy on vaccinations, which was passed in 2014 and allowed Alberta Health Services to administer vaccines, including Gardasil, in the district’s schools.
Tomkinson said their anger goes beyond personal preferences: it’s a safety issue.
“Our children are at risk, they’re [in] danger. Some have allergies, some have health conditions — you can’t simply be walking into a clinic and they just put whatever is on the table into the children.”
“They put something into our kid that we believe there isn’t enough medical evidence to be beneficial to our kid,” his wife wrote on Facebook, adding she was livid.
Tomkinson said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman also apologized on Wednesday, but that doesn’t alleviate the health concerns the family has.
He went online to search for other people in the same situation and found a Global News story from November 2015, when an Edmonton family’s nine-year-old daughter was also given the HPV vaccine against their wishes.
“Global itself covered the same instance two years ago, where AHS went on to say that they had stringent policies in place and safety was a concern and there’s a three-step process, and I don’t see any change at all.”
WATCH: A local couple is livid because they say their nine-year-old daughter was given the wrong shot: the HPV vaccine. Su-Ling Goh files this story in November 2015.
In a statement, Alberta Health Services apologized for the error and said it immediately reached out to the family to answer their questions.
“As soon as we became aware of this error, we reached out to the family to express our sincere regret that this happened, and to answer any questions or concerns they may have.
We appreciate that immunizations are a sensitive issue for some, and that is why we have processes in place to ensure that we gain consent from parents before immunizing a child.
Vaccination errors are extremely rare. We are reviewing this incident to better understand what happened, and to help us prevent such errors in the future.
To protect patient confidentiality, AHS cannot provide further comment on any individual patient case or concern.
If patients or families have concerns regarding the care they or a loved one received, we encourage them to contact and review their concerns with their care team, and if they require further assistance they can contact AHS Patient Relations department at 1-855-550-2555.”
Tomkinson said they still support other vaccinations, but their eight children will no longer get their shots at school. Instead, the parents will take their kids to the local clinic.
Since news of the mistake became public, Tomkinson said he has been contacted by several other families in similar situations who feel they were brushed off by Alberta Health Services.
“AHS, the ministry, Minister Hoffman — they need to do an internal review, they need to revise the safety protocols here before somebody gets killed.”
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