Narcolepsy — Alleged link with Pandemrix vaccine


An alleged link between the Pandemrix® vaccine and narcolepsy, a long-term sleep disorder, has been in the news following a recent High Court settlement, explains Solicitor John Whelan.


A High Court settlement was recently reached in a case involving a student who claimed she developed the sleep disorder narcolepsy after receiving the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix when she was 16. The student had sued the Minister for Health, the HSE, the vaccine producer Glaxosmithkline Biologicals and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HRPA). The case was settled without admission of liability.


What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy Ireland defines narcolepsy as “a chronic neurological disorder with a range of serious symptoms which includes: continuous extreme tiredness; sleep attacks; very poor quality sleep; cataplexy; sleep paralysis; vivid (often very frightening) hallucinations associated with going to sleep and awakening.”


Pandemrix and the Swine Flu pandemic

Pandemrix was one of two vaccine brands used during the 2009/2010 pandemic influenza vaccination campaign. At the time, there were fears that swine flu could kill up to 80,000 people in Europe alone.


In Ireland, the HSE provided the pandemic vaccine to the population in a phased manner between November 2009 and March 2010. Just under one million people were vaccinated during the campaign. Among those aged 5‐19, the vaccine uptake for Pandemrix was 39.8%.

High Court case

The outcome of the recent High Court case will be of interest to individuals who believe they have developed narcolepsy as a result of receiving the Pandemrix vaccine in 2009/2010. It is thought that around 100 other children and young adults may have cases pending. If you are affected and require further information or advice, please contact John Whelan for assistance.