Pandemrix Vaccine: Compensation

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Labour, Batley and Spen 11:00 am, 8th March 2017

I will come on to that point, but I totally and utterly agree. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Government’s foot-dragging is causing unacceptable and upsetting suffering and distress for the families involved.

Although I acknowledge the difficult balancing act involved in weighing the risk of a pandemic against the risk of fast-tracking a vaccine’s licensing, that does not excuse the fact that some patients were not made aware of the facts, nor does it excuse the Government from subsequently attempting to avoid responsibility for the damage caused. Making the vaccine available at the time of the pandemic clearly came with a degree of risk. GSK was given an indemnity from any liability by the UK Government. My constituent has made it clear to me that she was not informed that the vaccine had not been fully tested or that GSK had obtained an indemnity. Therefore, as the result of advice given to his mother by the NHS, my young constituent Sam received the vaccine on 27 April 2010. He was four and a half years old.

Four months later, concerns were raised in Finland and Sweden about the association between the vaccine and narcolepsy. Following that, a study by the UK Health Protection Agency and others, which was funded by the Department of Health and the HPA, found that around one in every 52,000 to 52,750 Pandemrix jabs led to narcolepsy. The results of that study were published in The BMJ in 2013 and were consistent with the findings of the aforementioned Finnish and Swedish studies. Pandemrix stopped being given to children in the UK in 2011, but that was too late for Sam and dozens of children like him.

Sam has been affected by 14 severe or chronic neurological issues, including narcolepsy and cataplexy. He suffers from night terrors in which he can see and smell dead people. He suffers from a damaged heat regulation system, automatic behaviour, micro-sleeps, temper issues, joint and muscle pain, anxiety and depression. Sam is now 11 years old and has faced unimaginable strain. In addition to being prohibited from enjoying a normal childhood, he lives in a world in which most people know little about his condition and misunderstand his symptoms. Shockingly, on one occasion while Sam was passed out in the street as a result of his condition, a dog walker allowed her dog to urinate on him. No 11-year-old should be expected to face the indignity and pressures that children such as Sam live with as a result of the Pandemrix vaccine.

Tragically, Sam has tried to commit suicide several times. We know from a coroner’s report that one 23-year-old woman took her own life after telling her family that living with narcolepsy after receiving Pandemrix had become unbearable. This is all too desperately sad.

The link between Pandemrix and narcolepsy has had a profound effect on families. My young constituent’s parents have found themselves under immense pressure, and in October 2016 his mum Di had no choice but to call a liquidator into her engineering business. It was impossible for her to work and ensure that her son’s complex care needs were met. Life is unacceptably hard for Di and Sam. They are very grateful to Narcolepsy UK, which receives no assistance from the Government but has been a source of huge support for them.

The Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 was intended to help to ease the burden on individuals for whom a specified vaccine had caused severe and permanent disability.