A 16 -year-old boy who claimed he developed a rare sleep disorder after he got a swine flu jab has settled his High Court action.
The ground-breaking settlement for Benjamin Blackwell could now pave the way for the resolution of 80 cases over the Pandemrix vaccine which were due before the High Court.
Benjamin Blackwell 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 landmark action was a test case for 80 other legal actions over the vaccine developed in response to the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and 2010. The terms of the Blackwell settlement will now be available to those children and young adults who have sued over the vaccine, the High Court heard today.
The Blackwell’s counsel, Dermot Gleeson SC, told the court the Blackwell settlement figure is 50 per cent 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 the children and young adults who have similar cases pending before the High Court in relation to the vaccine.
Counsel said there are extensive benefits in the settlement for Benjamin Blackwell, which includes educational supports, accomodation costs in relation to third level education , a “gold” medical card as well as childcare costs.
The settlement will not be taken into account when assessing future disability benefit.
The Blackwell settlement is without an admission of liability.
Family not anti-vaccine
Mr Gleeson told the court Benjamin’s family were not anti-vaccine and “they believe in vaccination and did not want their son’s case to be seen as anti-vaccine.”
The High Court heard the teenager now has to take several naps a day even at school where he sleeps on a mattress of the school prayer room. He cannot engage in sport and is exhausted every evening.
Approving the settlement this afternoon Mr Justice Kevin Cross said it was a very good settlement which had the potential for the resolution of other cases.
Outside court Benjamin's father James 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 Blackwell,( 16), Fairyhouse Road, Ratoath, Co Meath had through his mother Natalie Blackwell sued the Minister for Health, the HSE and Glaxosmithkline Biologicals SA (GSK), producer of Pandemrix.
GSK was previously given an indemnity by the State concerning any adverse reactions to the vaccine.
The action, which involved several medical experts, had been listed to last 16 weeks before the High Court but settled before the case opened.
In his action, the teenager claimed he was administered the Pandemrix vaccine on February 22nd, 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 including at school.
In 2011 the young boy went on his first Beaver Scouts camping trip and when his mother went to pick him up, she found him sound asleep in the middle of the camp field as all the other children ran around having fun.
He currently takes three scheduled naps a day including when he is at school
He had to be carried back to the car while asleep. He had ongoing problems with fatigue and narcolepsy was diagnosed 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.
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 22nd 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 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 the potential consequences of receiving the vaccine.
The claims were denied.