Compensation for victims of swine flu vaccine

Posted by Kym Provan on
Child having injection

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I was very pleased to read in an article that the Upper Tribunal has found in favour of a 12 year old boy who developed the debilitating condition of narcolepsy after being given the swine flu vaccine, and ordered that the DWP should pay him compensation of £120,000.

Concerned about the potential consequences of a swine flu pandemic in 2009/2010, the government recommended that a number of more vulnerable groups of patients be given the swine flu vaccine. Pandemrix vaccine was manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and administered to around 6 million people in the UK.

A few years' later reports began to emerge that the swine flu vaccine could be linked to the development of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder which significantly impacts upon the sleep patterns of sufferers and can cause them to suddenly fall asleep without warning during the day. For further information on the condition, click here.

Initially the UK government denied that there was any causal link between the vaccine and narcolepsy, but a number of studies conducted showed that people were much more likely to develop narcolepsy if they had had the vaccine than if they had not. The government now accepts that there is a link between the two although the reasons are not fully understood.

The ruling to the Upper Tribunal reported is in respect of The Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme, which is a government funded scheme that makes a one off payment of £120,000 to individuals who have suffered a severe and permanent disability as a consequence of certain vaccines, including the swine flu pandemic of 2009 up to 31 August 2010. 

However the DWP had rejected the contention that narcolepsy constitutes a severe disability. Whilst each case will presumably fall to be decided on its own merits, the Upper Tribunal decided that in this case, (the child remains anonymous) the boy is sufficiently disabled to be entitled to a payment under the scheme. There are many more families who will be hoping that this will make it far easier for them and their children to also benefit from the scheme.

Although a large sum of money, £120,000 is highly unlikely to be sufficient to pay for a patients' care and needs for the duration of their life, particularly as many of those affected are children. I understand that many of the victims are also looking to pursue a claim for financial compensation against GlaxoSmithKline. Such claims however can be extremely difficult to bring and often it is many years before the case is resolved. Therefore payments from the DWP Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme will enable sufferers to at least benefit from some assistance in the short to medium term.

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About the Author

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Kym specialises in clinical negligence claims and heads our clinical negligence team in Southampton.

Kym Provan
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