HELSINKI — The Finnish government and major insurance companies announced Wednesday they will pay for lifetime medical care for children diagnosed with narcolepsy after receiving the swine flu vaccine.
"The compensation will provide much-needed financial assistance for the families, although it cannot take away the emotional distress caused by this condition," Social Services and Health Minister Paula Risikko said in a statement.
Finnish and international researchers recently found a conclusive link between the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine and new cases of narcolepsy, a chronic nervous system disorder which causes people to often uncontrollably fall asleep.
The Finnish Pharmaceutical Insurance Pool (LVP), which represents insurance companies, said Wednesday it would honour all insurance claims in this category.
LVP said it would review each claim individually to calculate the scope of the payout.
The Finnish government meanwhile agreed to cover any medical costs exceeding the insurance claims.
In Finland, 79 children between the ages of four and 19 developed narcolepsy after receiving the Pandemrix vaccine in 2009 and 2010.
Of these cases, an unusually high number, 76, also suffered from bouts of cataplexy, suffering hallucinations or paralysing physical collapses, according to Finnish research.
From Finland's YLE:
The amount of compensation has not yet been set, as each case will be investigated individually. Medical care, medication and travel costs are eligible for reimbursement, along with other costs incurred as a result of narcolepsy caused by the Pandemrix vaccinations.
Where the victim is a child, loss of earnings compensation could be paid to parents. After the 30-million euro fund for compensation is exhausted, the state will take responsibility for funding payouts.
The link between Pandemrix and subsequent onset of narcolepsy has been supported by research from Finland’s Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).UPDATE: Sweden also begins compensating kids for narcolepsy.
The first children in Sweden who fell ill with the sleeping disorder narcolepsy after being given the swine flu vaccination Pandemrix, have been awarded 50,000 kronor ($7,340) in compensation.
“It is difficult for me to say if 50,000 kronor is a lot or too little. We have nothing to compare it to, “ said Herman Afzelius, father of 10-year-old Arvid, who suffers from the disease after getting the swine flu shot, to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
In total, 118 children and youngsters have reported being struck by the disease after the vaccination drive in 2009 and 2010.
Twelve families have so far been told they will receive compensation, according to DN.
According to Anders Öhlen, the CEO of insurance company Läkemedelsförsäkringen, the amount is in line with other severe illnesses, such as deafness or paralysis. . .
When the children turn 18, a new medical assessment will decide if they are eligible for any other financial recompense...