Could a flu vaccine really put people to sleep? The media wires are buzzing with news out of the United Kingdom regarding the Pandemrix vaccine that was used during the swine flu outbreak of 2009-10 and its possible connection to narcolepsy in children. A government-funded study that followed on the heals of previous research out of Finland confirms that there does appear to be some association between the vaccine and an elevated risk of narcolepsy.
Over 30 million doses of the GlaxoSmithKline developed Pademrix vaccine was given during the flu epidemic, many to children. It should be noted, this particular flu vaccine is not used in the United States and has not been used in Europe for two years.
Researchers reviewed 245 case notes for young children from sleep and neurology centers across Europe. Out of 75 children who had narcolepsy, 11 had been vaccinated shortly before their symptoms appeared. GlaxoSmithKline has referenced over 800 cases of narcolepsy associated with the Pandemrix vaccine. These findings have put parents and health officials on alert.
What is Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a rare disorder that causes extreme daytime sleepiness. Those that suffer can fall asleep in the middle of any activity at any time. Hallucinations are common, and sleep paralysis may occur. The cause of narcolepsy is undetermined, but researchers suggest that it may be an infection that actually triggers the condition or even a malfunction of a particular brain chemical that regulates sleep patterns. Drugs that stimulate the nervous system are the primary treatment used to help people who suffer with narcolepsy.
Possible Genetic Predisposition
Researchers believe that the link between the vaccine and narcolepsy may be mediated by a gene. It is thought that the vaccine may have been a contributing factor to the expression of this gene.
Taking Chances with Vaccines?
It is possible that the vaccine-narcolepsy findings will fuel the already heated discussion regarding vaccinations across both Europe and the United States. Those in favor of vaccines argue that vaccination is safe and one of the best health developments of the 20th century. They quickly point out that illnesses such as whooping cough, diphtheria and rubella which took the lives of millions at one time, are now prevented with vaccines. Opponents argue that children’s immune system are naturally strong enough to deal with most infections. They suggest that the risks associated with vaccines including paralysis, seizures and death are not worth the risk of protecting against non-life threatening illnesses.
It is likely that the heated discussing regarding the necessity and risks of vaccines will persist well into the future as research continues. The best one can do is make an informed choice where choice is given. Depending on where you live exemptions to vaccines are permitted. Fifty states offer medical exemptions, 48 offer religious exemptions and 20 offer philosophical exemptions.
–The Alternative Daily