Narcolepsy Teen Settlement Offers Hope for 80 More Cases With Swine Flu Vaccine
A teenager who claimed he developed a rare sleep disorder after receiving a swine flu shot has settled his case in the High Court.
The settlement for Benjamin Blackwell (16) could now pave the way for judicial clarification of 80 cases involving the Pandemrix vaccine.
Benjamin claimed he contracted the sleep disorder narcolepsy and cataplexy, a related muscle weakness, after receiving the Pandemrix vaccine at the national school when he was five years old.
The vaccine was developed in response to the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and 2010. The terms of the Blackwell settlement will now be available to the other children and young adults who have sued over the vaccine, the court heard.
Blackwell family attorney Dermot Gleeson SC told the court that the settlement amount was 50 percent of the total court claim. The amount due to the teenager will be taken to court on another occasion.
The lawyer said as part of the settlement it has now been agreed that the same terms of the settlement will apply to those in similar cases pending in court. The attorney said the settlement includes extensive benefits for Benjamin, which include educational support, housing costs related to higher education, a “gold” health card, and childcare costs.
The severance payment is not taken into account when assessing the future disability pension. The Blackwell Settlement is without admission of liability.
The court heard the teenager now has to take multiple naps a day, even at school, where he sleeps on a mattress in the school’s prayer room. He cannot exercise and is exhausted every evening.
In court, Benjamin’s father, James, said his family was “pro-vaccine, pro-science and pro-transparency.” He said narcolepsy is invisible, but it severely limits what can be achieved in a day. He said they were very relieved the litigation was over.
Benjamin of Fairyhouse Road, Ratoath, Co. Meath, through his mother Natalie Blackwell, had sued the Secretary of Health, the HSE and GlaxoSmithkline Biologicals SA (GSK), the makers of Pandemrix.
GSK had previously received compensation from the state for any side effects from the vaccine. The lawsuit was scheduled to last 16 weeks but was settled before the case was opened.
In his lawsuit, the teenager claimed he was given the Pandemrix vaccine on February 22, 2010 at his national school.
It has been claimed that Benjamin Blackwell or his parents did not receive full information and warnings regarding the Pandemrix vaccine.
It has been alleged against the Minister and HSE that there was allegedly insufficient or no warning at all of the known or unknown risks and possible consequences of vaccination.
The claims were dismissed.