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high court Hope for 80 other cases as boy (16) settles narcolepsy action over the swine flu jab

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Benjamin Blackwell (C), pictured outside court yesterday with his parents Natalie and James Blackwell

Benjamin Blackwell (C), pictured outside court yesterday with his parents Natalie and James Blackwell

Benjamin Blackwell (C), pictured outside court yesterday with his parents Natalie and James Blackwell

A 16-YEAR-old teen who claimed he developed a rare sleep disorder after he got a swine flu injuection has settled his High Court action.

The settlement for Benjamin Blackwell could now pave the way for the resolution of 80 other cases over the Pandemrix vaccine which were due before the court.

Benjamin claimed he contracted the sleep disorder narcolepsy and cataplexy, an associated muscle weakness, after he received the Pandemrix vaccine at national school when he was five years old.

The vaccine was developed in response to the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and 2010.

SUED

The terms of the Blackwell settlement will now be available to those other children and young adults who have sued over the vaccine, the court heard yesterday.

The Blackwell family's counsel, Dermot Gleeson SC, told the court the settlement figure is 50pc of the full claim before the court.

The amount the teenager is to receive will be brought before the court on another occasion.

Counsel said as part of the settlement it is now agreed that the same settlement terms are available to those in similar cases pending before court.

Counsel said there are extensive benefits in the settlement for Benjamin Blackwell, which includes educational supports, accommodation costs in relation to third level education, a "gold" medical card and childcare costs.

The settlement is without an admission of liability and will not be taken into account when assessing future disability benefit.

The court heard the teenager now has to take several naps a day, including at school where he sleeps on a mattress in the school prayer room.

He cannot engage in sport and is exhausted every evening.

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Outside the court, Benjamin's father James Blackwell said his family were "pro vaccine, pro science and pro transparency".

He said narcolepsy is invisible but it hugely limits what can be achieved in any one day.

He said they were very relieved the legal battle was over.

Benjamin, of Fairyhouse Road, Ratoath, Co Meath, had through his mother, Natalie Blackwell, 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 action had been listed to last 16 weeks but settled before the case opened.

In his action, the teenager claimed he was administered the vaccine on February 22, 2010 at his national school.

Soon after, it was claimed he complained of occasional headaches and a high-pitched loud squealing in his head and his parents noted changes in his behaviour, including dramatic mood swings and that he started falling asleep at odd times during the day.

In 2011, he went on his first Beaver Scouts camping trip and when his mother went to pick him up, she found him asleep in the middle of the camp field as the other children played.

He had to be carried back to the car while asleep. He had ongoing problems with fatigue and was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2012.

He currently takes three scheduled naps a day, including when he is at school. Narcolepsy, it is claimed, will require him to have a lifetime of medication and medical treatment.

It was claimed neither he nor his parents would have consented to the vaccination if various matters were made clear to them, including that Pandemrix had allegedly never been, or never been adequately, tested on children of his age.

SAFER

Other claims include that tests on Pandemrix were more limited and less stringent than the normal tests to which vaccines are customarily subjected to before public release.

By February 22, 2010, an alternative swine flu vaccine, Celvapan, was available and was known by that date to be much safer than Pandemrix, it was also claimed.

It was also claimed that full information and warnings in relation to the Pandemrix vaccine were not furnished to Benjamin Blackwell or his parents.

Against the Minister and HSE, it was claimed there was an alleged failure to warn sufficiently or at all, the known or unknown risks and potential consequences of receiving the vaccine.

The claims were denied.

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