Sunday 18 February 2018

Jab 'linked' to sleeping disorder is scrapped

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

The swine flu vaccine which some parents believe contributed to their children developing an incurable sleeping disorder will not be used this winter.

The vaccine Pandemrix, which was manufactured in an urgent response to the swine flu pandemic during the winter of 2009-2010 is being blamed by a group of parents in this country for their child's narcolepsy, a condition which causes them to fall asleep unexpectedly during the day.

Surplus stocks of the vaccine, which were still in storage, were distributed for use as an emergency measure in January due to a shortage of seasonal flu jabs. But all outstanding supplies have now been disposed of.

The parents are to meet in Dublin tomorrow to form a support group Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder (SOUND) amid fears that at least 23 children who received the swine flu jab developed the disorder.

The European Medicines Agency recently ruled that Pandemrix should only be given to under 20 year olds if they are at risk of swine flu and no alternative is available.

In its review of studies in Sweden and Finland, where similar cases of narcolepsy were reported, the watchdog suggested the vaccine could have interacted with genetic and environmental factors such as local infections in Scandinavia to increase risk.

But the findings cannot be applied to Ireland.

Mairead Lawless from Rathgar in Dublin, whose son Alex (6), developed narcolepsy three months after getting the vaccine, said yesterday he spends his afternoons asleep instead of playing with his friends.

"My family is devastated at the change in Alex. At least 22 other children in Ireland that we are aware of have developed narcolepsy since late 2009 and we believe it is linked to Pandemrix.

"Many of these children also suffer from cataplexy which is a condition that causes loss of all muscular control and postural tone -- collapse brought on by heightened emotion."

The parents were referred to the Health Service Executive and were advised to apply for medical cards but only one family so far has received a card.

Ms Lawless said there should be some educational supports for them as they frequently have to miss school.

The meeting takes place at Bewley's, Newlands Cross, Dublin, tomorrow at 2.30pm.

Irish Independent

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