Judge praises courage of parents as teenage girl receives €1m over narcolepsy after receiving swine flu jab

A High Court judge has praised the courage of parents dealing with children who have claimed to have developed a rare sleep disorder from the swine flu vaccine.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey said he was “in wonder at the heroic levels of courage of parents” dealing with these situations as he approved a €1 million settlement for a teenager who claims she developed narcolepsy and cataplexy after receiving the jab when she was four years old.

The judge described as “very moving” a statement from the teenager’s mother as she told of the daily struggle for her daughter and family.

The 15-year old cannot be named by order of the court. Mr Justice Coffey was told the girl’s parents noticed narcolepsy-like symptoms within a few months of the vaccine, but it was first medically recorded four years ago. Her counsel described the teenager as an exceptional girl with a very high IQ and who can speak four languages.

Her mother told the judge the last 12 years have been very hard on the family.

“It is a lifelong condition. We are going to have to deal with this for the rest of her life. We just feel the world was her oyster, but she is not going to achieve the potential she should be able to achieve,” she said.

She added: “We have to keep it together; we still have a hard road ahead of us. She will never work a five-day week, she will need flexible hours. It is a daily struggle she has to live with and will have to continue to live with.”

The girl, through her mother, sued the Minister for Health, the HSE, and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals SA (GSK) – the producer of Pandemrix.

GSK was previously given an indemnity by the State concerning any adverse reactions to the vaccine.

The latest settlement follows on the case of a 16-year-old boy who settled his action in November last year. That groundbreaking settlement paved the way for the resolution of 80 cases over the Pandemrix vaccine.

The court previously heard there are extensive benefits in the settlement which include educational supports, accommodation costs in relation to third-level education, and a “gold” medical card as well as childcare costs.

In the latest case, the girl’s counsel, Jonathon Kilfeather SC, told the court she was four years of age when she got the Pandemrix vaccine in December 2009. Counsel said her parents noticed narcolepsy like symptoms within a few months, but it wasn’t until 2017 it was first medically recorded.

As a result of this issue, counsel said it had been agreed that instead of 50pc of a final award, the girl would be entitled to 42.5pc.

The €1million offer he said represents 42.5pc of the girl’s full claim.

He said the girl, who has narcolepsy and cataplexy, which affects the muscles, suffers from fatigue and falls and also has high anxiety.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Coffey said he thought it was a prudent one.

Tim Healy