Report links vaccine to narcolepsy

 

An official report has concluded that an increase in the sleep disorder narcolepsy among young people since 2009 is associated with the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Health, found there was 13-fold higher risk of narcolepsy among children and adolescents who received the vaccine compared with unvaccinated young people.

The results are very similar to those seen in similar studies in Sweden and Finland.

Around 27 young people who received the vaccine in Ireland have received a diagnosis of narcolepsy. However, health authorities are aware of other potential cases which have yet to be confirmed.

Narcolepsy is a disorder typically characterised by excessive sleepiness, sudden loss of muscle tone and hallucinations.

The Department's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said health authorities were responding to the needs of children and their families.

He said the Minister for Health will be bringing proposals to Cabinet shortly to comprehensively meet the needs of young people affected.

The report notes that it is unlikely that the vaccine alone would be sufficient to explain narcolepsy among young people.

International experts agree that a number of factors are likely to have contributed to the increased risk of narcolepsy.

Among the possible factors are a genetic pre-disposition which is more common in northern Europe.

Dr Holohan emphasised that vaccination was very safe. "It is important that the current vaccination programmes continue to protect children and adults against the serious consequences caused by these preventable diseases," he said.