I beg to move,
That this House
has considered compensation and the Pandemrix vaccine.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan, on the occasion of my first Westminster Hall debate. I thank my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg for his extensive work on this issue on behalf of his constituent Lucas Carleton. I also thank Mr Speaker for allowing this debate to take place. It is vital that Parliament considers this matter and public awareness is raised.
I will set out the effect that Pandemrix has had on several predominantly child patients and their families and discuss the need for the Government to acknowledge and express regret for what has happened to those patients and provide them with support. I will explain the challenges of accessing the necessary medication for affected people, and I will conclude by making recommendations to the Government.
Before I set out the issue at hand, I wish to be clear that, overwhelmingly, vaccines save lives. Thanks to vaccines, we have seen the eradication and near-eradication of diseases such as smallpox and polio, and I have no intention of discouraging parents from ensuring that their children receive tried and tested vaccinations. Quite the opposite—I want the Government to rebuild and maintain trust in our world-class inoculation programme. However, on occasion, certain vaccines have been shown to have damaged patients, sometimes with life-altering consequences. All precautions should be taken to prevent that from happening, and pharmaceutical companies and the Governments that give those companies indemnity should take immediate and full responsibility when that is shown to have happened and, having accepted responsibility, do all they can to support affected people.
I worked to secure this debate because I believe that Parliament and the Government must listen to and support individuals and families who have been affected by narcolepsy and cataplexy as a result of the Pandemrix vaccine. I became aware of this issue when my constituent Di Forbes came to one of my regular advice surgeries. Di has travelled to Parliament to watch these proceedings, and I hope that she will be able to travel home to Batley and Spen having received some assurances from the Government. Di explained to me the damage that the Pandemrix vaccine has caused her son Sam and the unacceptable battle that she has faced while seeking financial support to secure his long-term care and the appropriate medication for his condition.
By way of background, the Pandemrix vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and given to 6 million people during the global H1N1—swine flu—pandemic in 2009 and 2010. Owing to the nature of that pandemic, the European Commission, on the advice of the European Medicines Agency, fast-tracked the vaccine’s licensing. The UK Government then undertook a vaccination programme, based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. In short, Pandemrix was licensed for use in the EU, including the UK, without the usual clinical trials having been completed.