Narcolepsy – a condition characterised by an extreme tendency to fall asleep during daytime – was the fate of 15-year-old school girl Chloe Glasson after she went for the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.
Now falling asleep about 30 times a day, her life has changed completely. Not only does it disrupt her school life, but it also holds potential danger. Recently Glasson drifted off into a “dreamlike autopilot” state and went missing for about two hours while on route to her grandmother’s house. The family contacted the police as they feared something bad had happened to her, however, she returned home safely.
Others have fallen victim too
Glasson is one of about 100 estimated cases where people developed narcolepsy after being vaccinated with Pandemrix during the November 2009 flu pandemic. According to studies, the risk of developing narcolepsy after this flu vaccine increases tenfold. The charity Narcolepsy UK’s Matt O’Neill said they are of meaning that “more than 100 people have developed narcolepsy because of the swine flu vaccine”.
UK government compensation
The UK government is to pay for some of the persons who have developed narcolepsy after they received the Pandemrix vaccine before 31 August 2010.
Glasson is now to receive treatment to the tune of $23 000 (R245 352.50) per year at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, but hopefully the UK government’s compensation (of which the maximum is $220 000 (R2 346 850)), will assist. The drug, sodium oxybate, is a pioneering treatment that is to assist her with normalising her sleeping pattern.
In 2011 the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency excluded Pandemrix vaccine from their flu campaign.
Hope for a better quality life
In The Daily Mail Glasson said that she is putting a lot of faith in the treatment, and that although it will not cure the disorder, it will hopefully give her the opportunity to live her life normally.
According to Glasson’s mother Rebecca, her daughter’s life has taken a turn for the worst after they followed the government’s advice and got the swine flu vaccine. She told The Daily Mail that “She had gone from being a bright, outgoing girl to one who cannot go out on her own… She doesn’t doze for more than a couple of hours at a time, but she can have disturbing dreams… We desperately hope this new treatment will help.”
The manufacturer’s say
According to the manufacturers of Pandemrix, GlaxoSmithKline, patient safety is their first priority, and they are in the process of researching how narcolepsy is triggered and how the vaccine may have interacted with other risk factors in affected individuals. “We hope ongoing research efforts will enable us to provide more answers.”
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles in a normal way. People with this disorder often experience disturbed sleep during the night, and abnormal sleep during the day. This should not be confused, however, with insomnia.