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Finland's THL Halts Swine Flu Vaccine Amid Narcolepsy Link Fears

by VR Sreeraman on August 25, 2010 at 12:34 PM
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Finland's THL Halts Swine Flu Vaccine Amid Narcolepsy Link Fears

Finland's National Institute for Health and Wefare recommended Tuesday halting the use of the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine until a probe into a possible link to narcolepsy among children is concluded.

"At the moment we are not having a (swine flu) epidemic, so there is no immediate need for vaccination," the agency said in a statement.

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"Besides, major parts of the population are protected against the swine flu virus either through vaccination or or after having swine flu," it added.

The National Institute for Health and Wefare (THL) has received six reports of children known to have received the vaccine who have developed the chronic sleep disorder since the beginning of the year, it said, stressing however that "this is in line with the normal annual rate of narcolepsy cases."
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In addition, the agency said it was probing whether nine other cases of narcolepsy that had emerged since the beginning of 2010 could be linked to Pandemrix, which is produced by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

Last week, neighbouring Sweden's Medical Products Agency also opened an inquiry into the Pandemrix vaccine in response to reports of young people having developed symptoms consistent with narcolepsy after getting their shot.

But a cause-and-effect relationship between Pandemrix and narcolepsy is far from proven, with Finland's THL pointing out that the swine flu virus H1N1 itself could possibly cause the disease.

"Child neurologists and THL will continue to study the connection (with Pandemrix), but this will take several months," the agency said.

In the European Union alone, around 30 million people were vaccinated using Pandemrix.

Sweden bought 18 million doses, which was enough to provide two injections for each of its 9.3 million inhabitants.

According to Finland's National Health Institute, 2.5 million Finns were vaccinated against swine flu. Some 750 showed side effects, namely fevers, headaches and coughing, and one case was linked to narcolepsy.

Source: AFP
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