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HPA warns of link between narcolepsy and swine flu vaccine

Researchers have discovered that there may be a link between children developing narcolepsy and the Pandemrix flu vaccine.

Scientists from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) worked with research teams at two Cambridgeshire hospitals - Papworth and Addenbrooke’s - to look into narcolepsy in children. The study, which has been published in the British Medical Journal, followed 75 youngsters aged four to 18 who suffered from the sleep disorder and had been diagnosed after January 2008.

Out of the group, which had all attended sleep centres, 11 did not develop any symptoms until after they had been given the Pandemrix vaccine. And seven of the children started showing signs of narcolepsy within six months of the jab.

This led researchers to estimate that for every 55,000 children given the Pandemrix vaccine, one was likely to develop narcolepsy.

Medical professionals were recommended to vaccinate youngsters considered at risk of developing serious complications from influenza with Pandemrix in 2009-10 during the swine flu (H1N1) pandemic. It was still used on occasion during 2010-11. The use of the vaccine has since been restricted for the under-20s across Europe.

Research carried out in Finland and Sweden in the past had already found evidence of an association between the flu vaccine and the neurological disorder. This prompted the HPA to launch its own UK study in February 2011, working with English-based specialists in narcolepsy.

The HPA’s consultant epidemiologist, Professor Liz Miller, the study’s lead author, said the research indicated that children who had been given the Pandemrix vaccination were at an increased risk of suffering from narcolepsy in the future.

She said their findings had supported the research carried out in Scandinavia but said there was a chance that the risk was actually lower than estimated due to children who had received the vaccine being more quickly referred for treatment.

She said people who have been given Pandemrix would have to be studied over a longer period to establish the risk more accurately. She added that the research had implications for the future use and licensing of vaccines during pandemics in the future.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The cases of narcolepsy and many other adverse events from Pandemrix are utterly tragic.

    Pandemrix contains more squalene than any other vaccine on the market. Squalene is in many foods, but according to independent researchers it increases risk of autoimmune diseases when injected. It is regularly used to induce autoimmune diseases in lab rats.

    Narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease. The increased risk of narcolepsy should therefore have been expected.

    The swine flu situation was handled shamefully by the Norwegian authorities.
    There are thousands who are still suffering and get no compensation. There was gross under-reporting of adverse events. We know of many who were not permitted to report their problems. Many were told that the symptoms had no connection with the vaccine.

    We who were active in criticizing the vaccine were contacted by many who desperately needed help and who were turned away by the authorities. We also tried to help women who had miscarriages immediately after the vaccine, but we were helpless. It was a nightmare for us all.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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