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Narcolepsy 'linked' to swine flu

9th February 2011

A possible link has been highlighted between a swine flu vaccine and the rare sleeping disorder narcolepsy.

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At least 12 countries have reported the connection, according to the World Health Organization, which has said that the claims need further investigation.

So far, some 52 cases of narcolepsy linked to the Pandemrix jab have been reported in Finland but there are also cases reported in the UK, Sweden and Iceland.

However the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said a definite link had not been confirmed and that the Pandemrix vaccine should continue to be used as recommended.

A spokesman said: “The benefits of vaccination outweigh any risk of a possible side effect.”
Narcolepsy is a rare condition - with around 10 new cases per million people every year - where a person falls asleep suddenly and unexpectedly.

Tests carried out in Finland found that children given the swine flu jab Pandemrix - which is made by GlaxoSmithKline - were about nine times more likely to develop narcolepsy than those who had not been vaccinated.

The WHO’s global advisory committee on vaccine safety is monitoring the situation and wants further investigations into suggested links between narcolepsy and Pandemrix and other pandemic H1N1 vaccines.

The WHO said: “Even at this stage, it does not appear that narcolepsy following vaccination against pandemic influenza is a general worldwide phenomenon and this complicates interpretation of the findings in Finland.”

The Pandemrix vaccine has been used in 47 countries following the swine flu outbreak last year.

 

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