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Aoife Bennett a student from Naas, Co Kildare, has claimed that she had developed a sleeping disorder after having taken up a swine flu vaccination.  The details of the settlement have not been made public, however, she is to receive compensation due to the incident. The High court directed that the costs are to be paid by the Minister of Health and the Health Service Executive. 

The case began on the 8th of October and was expected to run for ten weeks costing millions of euros, it had appeared to be a “test case” as an additional 100 cases were brought before the court, was requested to identify whether any or all the defendants including the vaccine maker were liable for the damages. 

Ms Bennett had been diagnosed with the sleeping disorder after she had been given the Pandemrix vaccination when she was only 16-years-old at her school which had been part of the schooling program. This process has resulted in Ms Bennett suffering from narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness, and episodes of sudden weakness known as cataplexy.

At the beginning of the case; Ms Bennett’s lawyer mentioned that the process wasn’t that of “an anti-vaccine case, but was about a once-off badly managed vaccine, which had not been properly tested on teenagers”.

Senior Counsel Dermot Gleeson advised that the rare autoimmune disease may be caused when an individual with a certain genetic variant is placed with a new adjuvant or booster contained in a vaccine. Due to the narcolepsy being an autoimmune disease, there is a great possibility that children and teenagers will suffer different side effects as their immune systems are not fully developed. 

It was also mentioned by Senior Counsel that there have been approximately 1,000 children in Europe and Ireland who had suffered from the narcoleptic effect caused by the vaccination; these numbers had increased by 12 to 14 individuals who may become narcoleptic when receiving the vaccination. 

Mr Dermot Gleeson provided a breakdown of children who were affected by the vaccine: 

75-100 Ireland 

350 Sweden 

200 Finland 

100 France

100 UK

As well as a handful in Denmark and the Netherlands. The reactions due to Pandemrix had been ten times more than that of the swine flu vaccination distributed in Canada. 

The defendants had argued; stipulating that the Pandemrix vaccine had been accurately authorized after all claims had been denied. 

Vaccine makers lawyers said that there had been no causal link placed between the Pandemrix swine flu and the sleep disorder narcolepsy regardless of the ten-year research period. 

Mary Bennett, Aoife Bennett’s mother had thanked her for having the courage to take the case; as she explained this to be a “landmark”. She mentioned that it had been remarkably difficult for the 26-year-old to take on the state and the multinational company, as well as treating her illness while doing so. 

She added: “Today, Aoife has succeeded in receiving compensation and she has been vindicated”.

“However, no money will ever compensate Aoife for a lifetime of living with the incurable disability of narcolepsy and cataplexy.” She hopes that this process sets the way for the other 100 individuals who had been affected by this and that the process is in no way the same. 

The Bennett family mentioned during the case that the state had been aware of the safety concerns, and there had been a shortfall of the testing on the new booster. The state had also failed in communicating these concerns to the public and therefore these claims were denied. 

With the result of Ms Bennetts claim, the state maintains that narcolepsy had been caused by the vaccinations. 

During the case, it was noticed that GSK had been settling such claims in the UK for the past three years. This raises the concern as to why Ireland wasn’t able to follow the same procedure which would have been less harsh on the victims and their families. 

There has been a request for the Department of Health communication policies to provide a review with the relevant information to present to the patients, giving them access to informed consent. 

Sufferers Of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder (SOUND) narcolepsy group expressed disappointment with the State during the case, and after the settlements. SOUND’s secretary Tadgh Kennedy released a statement: they are extremely thankful for the Bennett family for taking the first landmark case and they are highly disappointed in the State who found it fit to fight the case in court.

The State had treated the case which had transpired extremely slow and with a huge amount of difficulty, Mr Kennedy has indicated he would like the State to fulfill the duty and providing the children and young adults with the appropriate care as they now have to head on in life with narcolepsy.

Mr Kennedy mentioned that the actions of the State have now resulted in millions. 

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