State should stop fighting vaccine cases and give compensation, TD says

Number of people who received swine flu vaccine take legal action alleging narcolepsy

A call has been made for the Government to stop fighting court cases against people affected by a vaccine the State offered for swine flu.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry alleged in the Dáil that the State Claims Agency has spent €2million “rigorously defending discovery alone in cases”.

A number of children and young adults who received the vaccine “have experienced life altering illnesses”. Some have taken legal action, alleging they suffer narcolepsy.

“Others are desperately awaiting State assistance and compensation commensurate with those life altering illnesses.”


The Sligo-Leitrim TD asked if the State had learned nothing from the CervicalCheck cancer screening controversy when the link between the vaccine and narcolepsy had been established six years ago.

He said called on the State to “desist from the costly defence” of these cases and to offer immediate mediation and appropriate compensation.

The Pandemrix vaccination was offered in 2009 to deal with a swine flu pandemic and Mr MacSharry said it was offered without clinical trials and no risk analysis was done.

A contract was signed in 2009 for eight million doses of the vaccine with pharmaceutical giant GSK at an alleged cost of €80 million.

A week before the vaccination programme started in October 2009, the incidence of swine flu began to drop and four days after it commenced GSK “informed the HSE of significant adverse outcomes but the vaccination programme continued”.

He asked if this was done “to save face” because so much vaccine had been purchased.


Mr MacSharry also claimed the HSE lied when it distributed leaflets to patients stating that the swine flu vaccine was as safe as the ordinary flu vaccine “but this was not known to be true at the time and in fact is false”.

Patients were also told that the vaccine was clinically tested but health professionals “were given different information” and the office of the Chief Medical Officer had been informed by the then Irish Medicines Board of its concerns about the absence of clinical testing.

He also said GPs had to be indemnified by the State Claims Agency before they participated in the vaccination programme.

Minister of State for Health Jim Daly said he could not comment on individual cases or matters that were the subject of litigation.

But he was “aware of a specific group of individuals who claim to have developed narcolepsy after they received the Pandemrix vaccine”.

He pointed out that in 2011 two cases of narcolepsy were confirmed following the vaccination programme.

Mr Daly stressed that the Minister for Health could not interfere in the State Claims Agency’s management of litigation.

But he, the Minister for Justice and the Minster for Finance continued to engage on what improvements could be made to the legal framework governing the management of product liability cases.

His priority was to ensure that the individuals and families affected received appropriate health and social care supports.

And he added that the HSE, and the Departments of Education and Social Protection were providing "a range of services and supports on an ex gratia basis".

Mr Daly said he would relay Mr MacSharry’s concerns to Minister for Health Simon Harris and to the Department of Finance.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times