By: Martha Garcia | Published: March 4th, 2013
New British research appears to confirm the findings of prior studies that link the Pandemrix “swine flu” vaccine to an increased risk of narcolepsy among children.
In a study published last week in the British Medical Journal, researchers determined that taking Pandemrix vaccine, ASO3 Adjuvanted Pandemic A/H1N1, resulted in a 14-fold increase in the risk of developing narcolepsy.
Britain’s Health Protection Agency conducted the study on the vaccine, which was widely used in Europe during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu outbreak.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime bouts of sleep. The disorder may also lead to night terrors and hallucinations. It is believed to be an autoimmune disease which attacks the body’s own cells, weakening the immune system.
The retrospective analysis study examined clinical data and information from sleep studies done in sleep centers and pediatric neurology centers across England. An expert panel used information concerning children ages four through 18 years of age who developed narcolepsy beginning in January of 2008.
Nearly 250 children were vaccinated with Pandemrix, the H1N1 vaccine which was used widely in Europe. Of the 250 children, 75 developed narcolepsy and a total of 11 were vaccinated directly before developing the disease, seven developed it within six months of vaccination.
Pandemrix was used during the 2009-2010 swine flu outbreak which was caused by the H1N1 virus. Rates of contracting H1N1 were so high, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the swine flu a global pandemic. The infection was dubbed the swine flu since many of the genes in the virus were similar to the influenza viruses in pigs.
AOS3 Booster May Be The Cause
Researchers believe the cause of narcolepsy in Pandemrix vaccinated children may be linked to the adjuvant, ASO3. ASO3 is a booster used in the vaccine which may trigger an immune reaction in some children. The suspected trigger is thought to affect children with a higher genetic risk of narcolepsy.
Other studies were conducted in Finland, Sweden and Ireland which also linked the increased risk of narcolepsy to the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine. Researchers say the findings were directly in line with the findings of the study from Finland. The U.K study determined the risk was one in 50,000 while the other studies found the risk much greater at one in 16-to 17,000.
More than 30 million doses of Pandemrix were given in Europe during the H1N1 outbreak. The United States did not use the vaccine at all. GlaxoSmithKline reported more than 800 cases of narcolepsy linked to the vaccine in Europe, but believe the available data to definitively link the two to be insufficient.
Nearly 25% of Europeans possess the genetic profile which puts them at higher risk of developing narcolepsy, statistics which may equate to more cases linked to the vaccine. Researchers say there is no current evidence to suggest other flu vaccines or vaccines for other diseases pose a threat.