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'Four-year-old contracted narcolepsy after fears over flu jab had been announced'



‘Felt like a sloth’: Aoife Bennett settled her action. Photo: Collins Courts

‘Felt like a sloth’: Aoife Bennett settled her action. Photo: Collins Courts

‘Felt like a sloth’: Aoife Bennett settled her action. Photo: Collins Courts

The next phase of narcolepsy cases involve children who received swine flu jabs in the weeks after concerns were first raised in Scandinavia.

One case involved a four-year-old who received the Pandemrix vaccine in early 2010 - and subsequently developed a very severe form of narcolepsy, spending most of their time sleeping.

Legal experts said the next cases will prove very high profile because the vaccine was administered in Ireland in the weeks after authorities in Sweden and Finland noted a suspected spike in adverse reactions.

The Government has been urged to adopt a less adversarial approach to swine flu vaccine claims following the case of Aoife Bennett (27).

Ms Bennett), who had her narcolepsy action settled by the Department of Health and HSE this week, pleaded for the State to adopt a less adversarial approach.

The young woman said she was totally taken aback by the nature of the State defence to her claim.

She broke down during her cross-examination.

Ms Bennett has asked for other families not to be put through her ordeal.

"It was very tough to watch," she told RTÉ.

Her mother, Mary, said the manner in which her family and the 100 other families pursuing claims were treated represents "a national scandal.

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She said their treatment was "exceptionally hostile".

"It is a national scandal that millions of taxpayers' money has been wasted in defending [this] case and other similar cases against children and young people who do not have any right to legal aid," she said.

The State will foot the legal bill with the legal teams for the various State agencies and vaccine manufacturer GSK, which the State indemnified, comprised of 26 solicitors, barristers and senior counsels.

Ms Bennett said the effects of narcolepsy were devastating and she was left feeling "like a sloth."

"I found myself sneaking up the stairs to go to bed for the day, I had to force myself to come down for Christmas dinner," she said.

She also has a condition linked to narcolepsy called cataplexy which results in total loss of muscle control.

"Even the slightest bit of emotion, some of your muscles lose control, my eyes might roll, my arms would drop, my knees would buckle and sometimes I'd collapse to the floor," she said.

Incredibly, Ireland re-issued Pandemrix in 2010/2011 amid fears of a shortfall in the normal winter flu vaccine.

One child who developed narcolepsy received two different Pandemrix jabs in 2009 and 2011.

She received her second jab weeks before the vaccine was recalled after Scandinavian health studies.

A further 100 cases are pending.

The State indemnified GSK to have Pandemrix fast-tracked into use in 2009.

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