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More than 80 cases now before High Court over swine flu vaccine

A solicitor handling many of the cases said the slow process is “very frustrating” for his clients.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE SOLICITOR HANDLING many of the cases involving people who allegedly developed narcolepsy after receiving the swine flu vaccine has said more than 80 cases have now been lodged before the courts in relation to Pandemrix.

In 2009, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a swine flu pandemic. The Irish government and the HSE purchased over eight million Pandemrix vaccines, which were made by Glaxosmithkline (GSK).

Many people received the vaccine before its use was suspended in Ireland in 2011 after concerns were raised about negative side effects including a link with narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.

The British Medical Journal published an investigation last September which noted that serious safety concerns were raised in 2009, nearly two years before the vaccine’s use was stopped in Ireland.

Legal proceedings in two more cases were issued during the week. One case, involving a woman, is listed for trial on 8 October next. The other case involves an underage boy.

The defendants in both cases are the Minister for Health, the HSE, GSK and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

The proceedings were lodged by Michael Boylan Litigation. The Dublin-based law firm is handling the vast majority of the 80-plus cases. 

‘Enormous task’ 

Solicitor Michael Boylan told TheJournal.ie the firm is “going through an enormous task” of finding and searching documents for relevant information.

“We’re having to spend hundreds of thousands on IT experts and a team of document reviewers going through piles of documents,” he added, on the documents his team had sourced.&nbsp

In February, the Sunday Business Post reported that the government had spent €2.1 million discovering documents for a test case brought by Aoife Bennett, a 28-year-old woman who allegedly developed narcolepsy from the Pandemrix vaccine. 

Bennett’s case is considered a lead case for the other related legal actions.

‘A very stark disease’ 

Boylan said he believes the government has spent closer to €3 million at this stage.

Narcolepsy is a very stark disease and many people have late diagnosis. It’s just terrible, it really is terrible,” he added. 

When asked about the situation in the Dáil by TD Clare Daly last Tuesday, Health Minister Simon Harris said the State Claims Agency is dealing with the cases in question, adding that it “would not be appropriate” for him to comment.

“The discovery process is being actively case managed by a judge of the High Court. There have been several High Court motion hearings to date.

“The matter has been listed again before the High Court in October 2019 where a test case will be raised by the plaintiff.

“The Department of Health and the HSE continue to comply with all orders made by the courts and at no stage has the State failed to comply with a discovery order of the High Court,” Harris said.

TheJournal.ie contacted the department, the State Claims Agency, the HSE and GSK for comment.

The HSE said it was a matter for the State Claims Agency, which declined to comment.

The department and GSK also both said they cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings. 

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Órla Ryan

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