Parents are preparing to sue the Government after their children took a swine flu vaccine and promptly started sleeping up to 19 hours a day.
The group of parents is considering legal action after the Health Protection Agency found a ten-fold increased risk of the sleeping disorder narcolepsy in children given the drug Pandemrix.
The vaccine widely used in the UK during the 2009-2010 flu pandemic and given to almost one million British children between the ages of six months and five years old.
One of the sufferers is Josh Hadfield, now aged seven, who lives in Somerset. He was diagnosed with narcolepsy and related muscle weakness after being given Pandemrix.
The vaccine is now no longer being used. It had previously been linked to narcolepsy in youngsters from Finland, Sweden and Ireland.
Josh’s life has changed dramatically as a result of his condition and his parents, Caroline and Charlie, from Frome, Somerset, are among a group of parents considering legal action against the Government.
The Department of Work and Pensions, which is responsible for administering Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme says there is currently insufficient medical evidence to show that the swine flu vaccine causes narcolepsy.
But a Health Protection Agency investigation estimates the risk was one in 52,000 in those vaccinated.
Josh was vaccinated in January 2010, when he was aged four. His mother said yesterday: “He was a perfectly healthy energetic four-year-old before the vaccination, but within two weeks he was getting more tired and after three weeks he was sleeping for 19 hours.
“Things then developed quickly and he struggled to walk.
“In one incident he fell unconscious at home. After months of tests at hospitals a sleeping consultant diagnosed his condition which is now kept under control with drugs. But laughter can trigger attacks and Josh was too anxious about fear of an incident to go sledging in last week’s snow. “We feel we are constantly treading on eggshells.”
The issue was highlighted in the BBC’s Inside Out West last night. Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol, who was in charge of one of the paediatric clinical trials of Pandemrix, told the BBC: “The risk is so much increased that it seems very unlikely that this is a biased result.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) warned in 2011 that Pandemrix should only be given to people under the age of 20 if other jabs are unavailable because of concerns of potential link to narcolepsy. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which produced the drug, was already carrying out studies in Canada where an equivalent vaccine was used and was required by the EMA to carry out more work.
The company says it takes the safety of patients very seriously and is working hard to better understand the research emerging from a select number of countries.
A spokesperson said: “Narcolepsy is a complex disease and its causes are not yet fully understood but it is generally considered to be associated with genetic and environmental factors, including infections.”