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Compensation plan on table for victims of swine-flu sleep disorder

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Mairead Lawless and her son Alex at their home in Rathgar, Dublin.

Mairead Lawless and her son Alex at their home in Rathgar, Dublin.

Mairead Lawless and her son Alex at their home in Rathgar, Dublin.

A State compensation scheme is being considered for the victims of a devastating sleeping disorder linked to the swine flu vaccine, it emerged yesterday.

Already 27 people, mostly children, have been confirmed as suffering from the disorder narcolepsy -- but the fear is that more victims have yet to be diagnosed.

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, revealed that Health Minister James Reilly is to bring a memo to Cabinet and has not "ruled anything in or out" in providing compensation or other supports for those afflicted.

He was speaking after the Department of Health- commissioned report found the swine flu jab, Pandemrix, increased the risk of some susceptible young people developing narcolepsy.

It has left them at the mercy of falling asleep suddenly, sometimes for hours, and of temporary muscle weakness.

The report could not give a clear explanation why some people developed the illness after getting the swine flu jab but said it was very unlikely the swine flu jab alone was to blame.

However, it increased the risk in people who were genetically prone to narcolepsy. And environmental factors could also have played a part.

Dr Darina O'Flanagan, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, who headed the expert group investigating the possible link, said: "There was a 13-fold higher risk of narcolepsy in vaccinated compared to unvaccinated people."

The Pandemrix vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was rushed on to the market in the winter of 2009-2010 when the country battled the life-threatening swine flu pandemic.

Unaware

She said up to 28pc of people in northern Europe have the gene which pre-disposes them to narcolepsy and around 2,200 could be living with the condition in Ireland, although the majority are unaware that they have it.

The expert group contacted hospitals and doctors to put forward patients for the study. So far there are 24 children and adolescents, some as young as five years of age, who have been confirmed as having narcolepsy after the flu jab.

Three adults who got the vaccine have a confirmed diagnosis and three more children with possible symptoms are being assessed. One of these affected received the other swine flu jab, Celvapan.

The State took on liability for any adverse effects from the vaccines because of the rush to get them into clinics and hospitals.

A number of children, some of whom are doing exams, have already received educational supports provided by the State and one is receiving home tuition.

Irish Independent