Finally. A victory for common sense. The Court of Appeal in the UK has ruled against the Department for Work and Pensions in favour of a boy who developed narcolepsy at the age of seven following vaccination with GSK’s swine flu vaccine Pandemrix in 2009. This judgment has significant implications for other Pandemrix children and their families.

The link between Pandemrix and narcolepsy in children began to emerge in the summer of 2010, with epidemiologists subsequently providing compelling evidence of a causal link. The child in this case – John, now 14-years-old – is just one of many to have applied to the DWP for compensation under the Vaccine Damage Act 1979, but his story reveals just how difficult it has been for Pandemrix victims to be taken seriously and just how ignorant otherwise intelligent people still are about what it’s like to live with narcolepsy.

Initially, the DWP denied John compensation, arguing that his disability was not sufficiently severe. John appealed to the First Tier Tribunal and won. The DWP appealed the First Tier Tribunal’s decision to the Upper Tribunal, now claiming that the judgment should be made solely on current disability rather than taking future disability into account. When this was rejected, the DWP had to pay out the one-off sum of £120,000, but made another effort to reverse the decision at the Court of Appeal. All this appealing is unappealing. Today, they lost.

“This important decision brings clarity to anyone who brings claims under the Vaccine Damage Payment Act in future,” the boy’s solicitor Peter Todd of Hodge, Jones & Allen said in a statement. “It will in particular bring welcome relief to those who developed narcolepsy as a result of taking the swine flu vaccination and who have been awaiting payment from the DWP scheme, but also has implications for anyone affected by other vaccines covered by the scheme.”

There are currently around 100 children in the UK identified as having developed narcolepsy following vaccination with Pandemrix.

The benefits of vaccination to society are beyond question. But when there are adverse reactions, they hit individuals and not society. In these rare cases, it seems only right that the government of the day should be supporting those affected in whatever way they can. It saddens me that the default position here seems to have been to argue that narcolepsy is not particularly disabling and that its impact on future life can be dismissed.

I have had narcolepsy for over 20 years and know these two assertions to be false. I am almost finished with my book on narcolepsy, sleep and sleep disorders, which I hope will help raise awareness of what it’s really like to live with this devastating neurological disorder. Stay tuned.

For more information on narcolepsy, please visit Narcolepsy UK.

Victory for Pandemrix victims and common sense
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