Monday 21 October 2019

Government urged 'to do the right thing' for sleep disorder sufferers

State accused of 'futile action' after swine flu vaccine was linked with narcolepsy

Claire Daly TD. Picture: Damien Eagers
Claire Daly TD. Picture: Damien Eagers

Ralph Riegel

The Government failure to offer mediation or a redress scheme over the swine flu vaccine controversy has been slated as "extraordinary".

Augustus Cullen Law, the legal firm representing many of the victims of the Pandemrix vaccine, confirmed the State is continuing to deny all responsibility for people who developed side-effects.

That is despite major international studies, including an Irish report, which found likely links between Pandemrix and the sleep disorder narcolepsy.

Two opposition TDs, Marc MacSharry and Clare Daly, urged the Government to "do the right thing" for sufferers as they described the State's stance as "absolutely outrageous".

A key test case is now before the High Court with potentially up to 100 further cases pending.

While the Government fully indemnified the vaccine manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), before Pandemrix was introduced as a swine flu vaccine from autumn 2009, the State has fully contested all compensation claims.

Sligo TD Mr MacSharry warned that the State's stance to date has been "outrageous".

"The State Claims Agency (SCA) has spent over €2m rigorously defending discovery (of documents) in these cases alone," he said.

The Fianna Fáil TD challenged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris to immediately offer mediation talks to sufferers.

And campaign group Sound (Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder) said it was vital proper supports were provided for children and young adults battling narcolepsy.

"Sound has always stated that it is not anti-vaccine, and that the Pandemrix scandal was a result of the State rushing to get whatever vaccine it could and that it was acting with the best intentions," co-founder Tom Matthews said.

"We believe it is way past time for the State to finally step up on this issue and to fulfil the duty of care it is morally bound to provide to these children and young adults."

The HSE insisted its vaccine selections in 2009 were on the basis of expert medical advice supported by an external panel of experts. GSK declined to comment.

However, Augustus Cullen Law partner Jamie Hart said there was clearly a case for a redress scheme. He described the State as having "engaged in what we view as an empty and futile holding action in the courts".

"Augustus Cullen Law has acted for a number of victims of the Pandemrix vaccine since August 2011 and issued the first set of proceedings against the State and producer of the vaccine (who has received an indemnity from the State) in 2012," he said.

"In the ensuing six years, the State has denied all responsibility to the victims including a denial in their defences that the Pandemrix vaccine created or enhanced the risk of narcolepsy, and a denial that the State owed any duty of care to the recipients of the vaccine.

"This is all the more remarkable given what is known about the link between the vaccine and narcolepsy, as shown in a number of international studies.

"There is clearly a case to be made for a redress scheme to be introduced for all victims of this vaccine which would take these cases out of the courts and into a non-adversarial process."

Irish Independent

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