Woman says she developed narcolepsy after receiving swine flu jab

Niamh Quinlan

A Kildare woman’s High Court action is expected to be come a test case for Ireland’s vaccination programmes, after claiming she contracted narcolepsy from the swine flu jab she received in 2009.

27-year-old Aoife Bennett is seeking damages on the claim that she developed narcolepsy from the vaccination. This will be a case that could set precedent for more action to be taken by the other over 100 children and young adults claiming to have also contracted the sleep disorder.

Bennett is suing the Minister for Health, the HSE, the Health Products Regulatory Authority and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals S.A. (GSK).

GSK is a British pharmaceutical company that developed the drug Pandemrix for treating the virus.

Attempting to prevent a worldwide swine flu pandemic, the government of Ireland decided to distribute the drug in the Irish health system to vaccinate the public. However, the clinical trials were not completed and the drug was only allowed to be used on the grounds that the State indemnify GSK.

The court hearings began on October 8th and is expected to last for over 10 weeks. The prosecuting counsel has stressed that this will not be an anti-vaccination case and that the Bennetts are a pro-vaccination family. 

This is a landmark case in Ireland that will open the conversation on whether informed consent should be required that warns of the risks of a new vaccine that has had limited clinical trials.

However, Ireland is not the first country to deal with the claims of narcolepsy from the drug Pandemrix. In August 2010, the Swedish Medical Products Agency and the Finnish National Institute for Health launched investigations into the vaccination.

This came after doctors submitting reports of an increase of children between the ages of 12 and 16 developing narcolepsy one to two months after receiving Pandemrix.

Shortly after these investigations were first launched, Pandemrix was stockpiled once more in 2011 amid concerns of a regular flu vaccine shortage. The HSE then distributed it to Irish doctors to be used as the regular flu vaccine.

Author: Niamh Quinlan.

Image Credit: Pixabay