Wednesday 23 October 2019

State has 'greatest sympathy' for woman who claims she developed narcolepsy after getting swine flu vaccine, court hears

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Tim Healy

The State has expressed “ greatest sympathy” in the High Court for the 26 year old woman, Aoife Bennett, who is suing claiming she developed narcolepsy after she got the swine flu Pandemrix vaccination.

But counsel for the HSE and the Minister for Health, Paul Gallagher SC told the court as far as the State is concerned there is no liability to Ms Bennett.

On the fourth day of Ms Bennett’s action, which is a test case for as many as a hundred other cases relating to the swine flu vaccine, the State parties to the action put forward their defence.

Over three days have already been given over to the setting out of Ms Bennett’s case to the court which has to decide on  liability.

Ms Bennett was only 16 when she got the vaccine as part of a mass vaccination programme as the country braced itself for a threatened human swine flu pandemic ten years ago.

Ms Bennett, Lakelands, Nass, Co Kildare, a third level student has sued the Minister for Health, the HSE, the vaccine producer Glaxosmithkline Biologicals S.A. and the Health Products Regulatory Authority.

HSE brochures on the vaccine, it is claimed, had the effect of allegedly misleading those who read them as to the safety of the Pandemrix vaccine and the risk associated with its use.

It is claimed the brochures contained advice which was  not consistent with the the actual facts. One brochure, it is alleged, was written in a manner that most reading it would believe that everybody except those with a confirmed lab test for swine flu needed to get the vaccine and that it was safe to use Pandemrix.

It is further claimed the Health Minister and HSE ought to have known those who read the brochures were likely to come to an alleged erroneous conclusion as to the safety of Pandemrix vaccine and whether it had been adequately tested at all on children and adolescents prior to its release to the public.

Glaxosmithkline, it is claimed, demanded an indemnity from liability from the State before it would agree to supply the vaccine.

Parents if they had know all this would be likely to have not consented to the administration of Pandemrix to their children, it is claimed.

The Health Products Regulation Authority, it is alleged, was well aware there was an alternative  vaccine which had more clinical data available in relation  to its safety and efficacy.

All the defendants deny the claims and deny liability.

Mr Gallagher SC for the Minister for Health and the HSE said the allegation that Irish children had been vaccinated because the State was not prepared to dump vaccines was, he said, of no substance.

Counsel said there was “absolute disclosure of all appropriate information” and the public campaign for the vaccination programme, he said was unprecedented and extensive.

The case before Mr Justice Michael McGrath continues on Tuesday.

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