Emelie Olsson is one of about 800 children in Sweden and throughout Europe who developed narcolepsy, a sleep disorder, after being vaccinated with the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine made by British drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2009. Fourteen-year-old Emelie uses drug cocktails to try to control her narcolepsy symptoms. For daytime sleepiness and night terrors, she uses the stimulant Ritalin and the sleeping pill Sobril. She also uses Prozac to try to stabilize and limit her cataplexies. She explains, "That's one of the things that makes me feel most uncomfortable," and adds, "Before I got this condition I didn't take any pills, and now I have to take lots - maybe for the rest of my life. It's not good to take so many medicines, especially when you know they have side effects."
Scientists have published peer-reviewed studies from Sweden, Finland and Ireland showing that the risk of developing narcolepsy after the 2009-2010 vaccination campaign was between seven and 13 times higher for children who had Pandemrix than for their unvaccinated peers. Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world's leading experts on narcolepsy at Stanford University in the United States, says that the evidence is already clearly pointing in one direction. Mignot says, "There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Pandemrix increased the occurrence of narcolepsy onset in children in some countries - and probably in most countries."
Narcolepsy is a chronic nervous system disorder that causes excessive drowsiness. It often causes people to fall asleep uncontrollably. In more severe cases, some suffer hallucinations or paralyzing physical collapses called cataplexy - when strong emotions trigger a sudden and dramatic loss of muscle strength. It brings bouts of daytime sleepiness, nightmares, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis and is estimated to affect between 200 and 500 people per million. It is known to be a lifelong condition. Scientists are unsure of what causes it but know that patients have a deficit of a brain neurotransmitter called orexin, also known as hypocretin, which regulates wakefulness. Research has shown that some people are born with a variant in a gene known as HLA. This means they have low hypocretin and makes them more susceptible to narcolepsy.
Scientists investigating these cases are carefully looking at Pandemrix's adjuvant, called AS03. Some say that AS03 or its boosting effect may have started narcolepsy in those who have the susceptible HLA gene variant. Angus Nicoll, a flu expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), says, "Yes, there's a genetic predisposition to this condition, but that alone cannot explain these cases," and adds,"There was also something to do with receiving this specific vaccination. Whether it was the vaccine plus the genetic disposition alone or a third factor as well - like another infection - we simply do not know yet."
Goran Stiernstedt, a medical doctor turned public health official, wonders if things should have been different. In regards to the vaccination campaign and in an interview with Reuters, he says, "The big question is was it worth it? And retrospectively I have to say it was not." Being a wealthy country, Sweden was first in line to receive the vaccines. More than 200 cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Sweden since the 2009-2010 pandemic ended . Stiernstedt says, "This is a medical tragedy," and that, "Hundreds of young people have had their lives almost destroyed."
Finnish and Swedish governments have both agreed to provide financial compensation for the affected children after their own national research showed a link between the inoculation and narcolepsy. See: http://www.examiner.com/article/finland-and-sweden-to-compensate-vaccine-injured-children
795 people across Europe have reported developing narcolepsy since 2009 when the vaccine's use began according to GSK. Europe's drugs regulator has ruled that Pandemrix should no longer be used in people aged under 20 but many say that it should no longer be used...period.
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