Millions of children were vaccinated against Swine flu.Photo:Tobias Röstlund/Scanpix

Connection found between swine flu shot and narcolepsy

Sweden's Food and Drug Administration says its not surprised by the results of a preliminary Finnish study in which researchers found an increased risk of narcolepsy among 4 to 19-year-olds who were given Swine Flu shots.

Here in Sweden there has been 60 reported cases of narcolepsy among children and adolescents with a suspected connection to the vaccine. Last winter all parents were advised by the authorities to vaccinate their children against swine flu.

The study carried out by the National Narcolepsy Task Force found that children vaccinated in Finland with Pandemrix run nine times the risk of falling ill with narcolepsy compared to those who were not vaccinated in the same age group.

Narcolepsy is a rare disorder that causes extreme tiredness and leads to sudden sleep.

Nils Feltelius at the Swedish Food and Drug Administration (Läkemedelsverket) said that they were already carrying out their own investigation into the narcolepsy question.

" We believe that it enhances the signal which we have ourselves seen and started to investigate earlier."

The results from the on going Swedish research is expected in a couple of months.

Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare said in a statement that that it had 60 reported cases of narcolepsy with a suspected connection to the vaccine. 

Sweden underwent a mass vaccination programme last winter and Annika Linde at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control said that the vaccine undoubtedly saved many lives and the decision to buy the pandermrix vaccine was "definately a decision I believe that we would do again."

However taking into account the number of narcolepsy cases amongst children,  Annika Linde told the TT news agency that it was "enormously difficult to assess whether it was right or wrong."

She said "It is terrible that this has happened and there is nothing that I can say to the children or the families that have been affected by this."  

While Finland stopped giving the Pandemrix vaccine last August, Sweden's Food and Drug Administration says that almost everyone vaccinated here this winter has received another type of vaccine , a common seasonal flu jab which also gives protection against swine flu.

Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare said that 60 children and adolescents contracted narcolepsy in Finland in 2009 and 2010. Fifty-two of them - or almost 90 percent - had received the Pandemrix vaccine. The agency did say that the narcolepsy increase was probably caused by a combination of the vaccine and "some other factor" and more research in the area was needed.

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