Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Narcolepsy in Europe
Trying to stay awake all day after a restless night is difficult for pretty much everyone. But can you imagine going through that every day of your childhood? And what if the reason for your sleepiness was a doctor-recommended vaccine?
About 800 children in Sweden and other European countries have been diagnosed with narcolepsy after receiving an H1N1 vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline. While researchers are still looking further into the vaccine and its possible side effects, evidence for the link between the vaccine and the cases of narcolepsy is growing.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder. Its symptoms include sleepiness during the day; “sleep attacks,” which are periods of a strong urge to sleep followed by a short nap; and sleep paralysis, among other things. It has no known cause or cure.
Public health officials have decided that the vaccine, Pandemrix, should not be given to anyone under the age of 20 from now on.
More than 50 million people in 47 countries around the world received Pandemrix during the swine flu scare of 2009. The vaccine was not used in the United States because it contains a booster, and drug regulators in the U.S. tend to be cautious of vaccines with boosters.
Earlier this week, there were articles about a growing trend in which parents are purposefully foregoing regularly scheduled vaccines for their children. The practice doesn’t seem unreasonable in light of stories like this.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any vaccine can cause negative side effects. Currently, the CDC recommends vaccines against 16 diseases for children. Even though the odds of any major side effects happening to your child are slim to none, taking that chance 16 times can be scary.
On the other hand, the diseases these vaccines protect children against are equally frightening. Decades ago, smallpox and polio carried the threat of death and paralysis. Now both diseases have been all but eliminated, not only from the U.S. but the majority of the world.
Are you more worried about diseases, or the vaccines that are supposed to protect us from them?
Photo via iStock [Baris Simsek]