The Finnish Government has started paying compensation for adverse reactions to the recipients of the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix who subsequently developed the sleeping disorder narcolepsy.
The decision to compensate the families of children who contracted the condition was made after the National Institute for Health and Welfare produced a report in February 2011 concluding that an association existed between the vaccine against H1N1 swine flu and the diagnosis of narcolepsy in at least 50 children within an eight month period.
To date, 92 people have made medical negligence claims for compensation from the 30 million Euro pool established by Finnish Medical Insurance but, as narcolepsy can be a lifelong condition which is passed on genetically to future generations, Kari Valimaki – the Finnish Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health – has stated that the fund to provide compensation for adverse reactions is unlikely to be insufficient, and that the State will have to step in when the pool is exhausted.
The official reaction in Ireland – where 779 adverse reactions to Pandemrix were reported to the Irish Medicines Board between January 2010 and December 2011 – has been to wait until more research is concluded on the connection between the drug Pandemrix and narcolepsy. Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, responding to a question in the Dáil from Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, stated that “no link has been established yet between the swine flu vaccine and narcolepsy, but the Government will endeavour to ensure all families [of children diagnosed with narcolepsy] get the medical and social supports they need”.
More than 250,000 children in Ireland received the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine before it was withdrawn from use on advice from the European Medicine Agency (EMA). The EMA´s own study of adverse reactions to Pandemrix in 2011 concluded that a child who had been vaccinated with Pandemrix had a six-to-thirteen fold increased risk of narcolepsy compared with children who did not receive the vaccine.