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Narcolepsy Fears Collide With H1N1 Vaccine Use

Tue, 08/24/2010 - 6:56am

Finland's National Institute for Health and Wefare has recommended halting the use of the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine until a probe into a possible link to narcolepsy among children is concluded.  The National Institute for Health and Wefare (THL) has received six reports of children known to have received the vaccine who have developed the chronic sleep disorder since the beginning of the year, it said, stressing, however, that this is in line with the normal annual rate of narcolepsy cases.

In addition, the agency said it was probing whether nine other cases of narcolepsy that had emerged since the beginning of 2010 could be linked to Pandemrix, which is produced by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Last week, neighboring Sweden's Medical Products Agency also opened an inquiry into the Pandemrix vaccine in response to reports of young people having developed symptoms consistent with narcolepsy after getting their shot.

But a cause-and-effect relationship between Pandemrix and narcolepsy is far from proven, with Finland's THL pointing out that H1N1 itself could possibly cause the disease. In the European Union alone, around 30 million people were vaccinated using Pandemrix. Sweden bought 18 million doses, which was enough to provide two injections for each of its 9.3 million inhabitants.

According to Finland's National Health Institute, 2.5 million Finns were vaccinated, with some 750 showing side effects like fevers, headaches and coughing. One case was linked to narcolepsy.

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