Flu jab gave our six-year-old son narcolepsy: Boy slept for up to 19 HOURS a day after reaction to vaccine
Our son “was like he was a puppet whose strings had been cut”GlaxoSmithKline deny a “causal link” between narcolepsy and Pandemrix
The parents of a schoolboy who was struck down with narcolepsy after receiving a flu vaccine, said the Government should have carried out more tests before issuing the drug.
Josh Hadfield, 6, lost muscle control and started sleeping for up to 19 hours every day just three weeks after getting the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.
He would fall asleep up to every five minutes – even when he was walking, eating and swimming – and suffer sudden bouts of cataplexy (loss of muscle tone) when he laughed.
Josh, 6, at home during a narcolepsy attack with his mother Caroline. His school now has an area where he can nap
Now nearly two years later his mother Caroline, 41, said he was still suffering from the after effects of the controversial jab.
“I’m up with him around four times each night to feed him snacks and also comfort him because he has horrendous nightmares,” she said.
“He used to be sent home from school every time he fell asleep but now they have set aside an area in his classroom where he can take a nap.”
He is being treated with Ritalin and anti-depressants but has never returned to the happy-go-lucky boy he once was.
Earlier this year it emerged that the swine flu vaccine he received, called Pandemrix, has been linked to narcolepsy across Europe.
Previous studies have recorded a 13-fold increase in cases among children who have received the jab and in July the European Medicines Authority advised against giving it to the under-20s.
Wakeful: Caroline is up four times a night with Josh, which is when he now becomes hungry
Mrs Hadfield, a civil servant, believes the Government did not carry out sufficient tests before issuing it to millions of people.
She said: “Nothing could convince me it was anything but the jab which caused Josh’s conditions.
“The Government had a knee-jerk reaction to swine flu and put out this vaccine, giving it to very young children.
“Josh was absolutely fine straight after the jab. But three weeks later he began sleeping for up to 19 hours a day.
“He was halfway through his reception class at school and he would sleep as soon as I picked him up until the next morning. I had to bring a push chair to collect him.
“He slept more than he was awake. He would fall asleep in just a few seconds up to every five minutes.
“It was like he was a puppet whose strings had been cut, he just fell to the ground.
“Before the jab he was completely healthy. He was one of the most energetic boys that I have ever met. He was constantly on the go.
“His personality changed drastically as well. We had this happy, cheerful little boy who turned into someone who was aggressive and frustrated.”
Pandemrix protects against the H1N1 virus, which caused by the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
Only-child Josh received it at his local GP surgery on January 21 2010 after Caroline was told he was “at risk” of the virus as he was under five.
Tests in the UK have not revealed a link between the jab and narcolepsy, but it has been confirmed in other countries, such as Finland and Sweden.
In Finland, investigators found 79 vaccinated children and adolescents had developed narcolepsy, 12 times more than they would expect. The Finnish government has accepted the link and promised compensation and support for affected families.
Within three weeks of being given the jab, Josh began sleeping up to 19 hours a day and suffered from cataplexy episodes after extreme laughter or fear.
He would “go ballistic” if mum Caroline or dad Charlie, 46, tried to wake him up – often throwing pushchairs or items of furniture at them.
Caroline took him to the doctors and medics spent a year trying to diagnose him, giving him “test after test” including MRI scans, lumber punctures and brain scans.
Josh was finally diagnosed with his conditions in January this year and has since been put on high doses of Ritalin, which he takes 45mg daily, and anti-depressants, which he takes twice a day.
His condition has now slightly improved but he has had to make “massive” changes to his life.
Collect photo of Josh after falling asleep in a supermarket trolley. His parents believe a swine flu vaccine is to blame
Caroline added: “He is never hungry throughout the day because of his condition. Funnily enough, he doesn’t sleep much at night and that’s when he is hungry.”
Caroline, who lives in Frome, Somerset, with husband Charlie, a printer, is now campaigning to raise awareness of the link.
In July, the European Medicines Authority said studies showed a six to 13-fold increased risk of narcolepsy in children and adolescents vaccinated with Pandemrix, compared to those who had not been vaccinated.
But it believed the vaccine “is likely to have interacted with genetic or environmental factors which might raise the risk of narcolepsy, and that other factors may have contributed to the results”.
A spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the vaccine had already been banned from use in the under-20s.
She said: “The Finnish and Swedish studies were considered as part of the European safety review of Pandemrix earlier this year.
“The outcome of this review was that Pandemrix may only be used in persons aged under 20 years if the annual seasonal vaccine is not available and if there is a particular need to immunise against H1N1.
“No restrictions on use in adults were imposed, and the EU review acknowledged the important role that Pandemrix played in reducing the consequences of H1N1 in Europe during the pandemic.
“This risk is yet to be confirmed in other countries, and it is possible that other geographical factors in Sweden and Finland, at the time of the pandemic, contributed in some way to the cases of narcolepsy seen after vaccination with Pandemrix.
“Further work is on-going to explore this, including a study in the UK”.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it could not comment on individual cases.
She added: “We would advise these families to seek independent advice.”
The vaccine is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, who pointed out that only seven children had been reported to have developed narcolepsy out of six million doses given.
Dr Pim Kon, UK medical director for the company, said: “There is currently no evidence at all to suggest there is a causal link between Pandemrix and narcolepsy.
“We are working very hard with the regulatory authorities to try to understand what is happening.
“At the end of day, patient safety is of utmost importance to us and we wouldn’t ever put out a drug or leave it out there if we believed that it actually was a true issue.”