What are Scandinavians tired of explaining 1

The price of panic: Serious vaccination against swine flu

After the 2009 mass vaccinations in Sweden and Finland against the virus pandemic, hundreds of children are now suffering from "sleeping sickness". Narcolepsy triggers attacks of fatigue no matter how much you've slept.

"I trusted them. One injection - and after that my whole life was changed." Just like 19-year-old Daniela Dahl, now, two years after the swine flu pandemic began in 2009 and 2010, hundreds of young Scandinavians have to realize that the vaccination, which was once supposed to protect them from the disease, has instead made them terminally ill. The Finnish health authorities believe that there is a direct connection between the vaccine “Pandemrix” and “narcolepsy”, a neurological disorder also known as “sleeping sickness” ; the one in Sweden is still hesitant and refers to an ongoing study.


Vaccination protection not detectable

But the numbers speak for themselves: In Finland, a more than twelve times higher risk of narcolepsy was found in children vaccinated with Pandemrix, here 121 people fell ill. There were 168 cases of narcolepsy in Sweden. Both countries were pretty much the only ones where mass vaccination had been implemented: 60 percent of Swedes and 50 percent of Finns received Pandemrix. In contrast, there was only one narcolepsy case in Denmark, where vaccination was restricted to high-risk groups. The mass vaccinations did not provide better protection against the swine flu virus: In Sweden 60 percent of the population were vaccinated, in Germany only eight percent (there were around 30 cases of narcolepsy). But the death rate from the virus was the same in both countries: 3.1 deaths per million inhabitants in each case - in Sweden that was 29. In comparison: around 3,000 Swedes die each year from “normal” flu.

Were the mass vaccinations in Finland and Sweden a panic reaction to an overrated disease? The politicians reject that. “We did the right thing and would do it again,” says Swedish Family Minister Maria Larsson. The health department bought 18 million cans of Pandemrix from the British manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline when the swine flu was declared a pandemic - and now that the shelf life of the unused cans is running out, the stocks are being refilled.

“In June 2009 I warned about the expensive and unsafe project,” says Staffan Sylven, specialist in infection control, “but the decision to have mass vaccinations was made politically.” The price is now paid by children like five-year-old Tindra, who says she wants to "That everything is back to the way it used to be", "that my brain will be fine again or that I will get a new one". Or like Nemo (9): “You shouldn't laugh too much. Otherwise you will collapse. "


Young lives in ruins

“I will never feel fresh again,” says Ludvig (14). “I didn't even have the strength to open the Christmas presents,” says 13-year-old Manfred. “Before I got sick, I looked forward to growing up,” says 17-year-old Elin. “I will have to adapt everything to my illness”, Filip (15) has recognized.

Narcolepsy triggers attacks of fatigue no matter how much you've slept before. Sleep comes suddenly, in the middle of the school lesson, while watching TV, in the swimming pool, while cycling, it lasts from a few seconds to half an hour. The immediate trigger is often emotional arousal, such as laughter or anger. Then the muscles fail and the patient collapses, which is why many have to take psychotropic drugs to dampen their feelings.

The alleged connection between pandemic and narcolepsy was "completely unexpected," says Anders Tegnell of Sweden's Social Services Agency, who is responsible for the implementation of the mass vaccination. In addition, almost only people between the ages of four and 19 are affected. "All medicines have side effects," says Tegnell, and they only had a few with the swine flu. So there is no reason to be afraid that it would be a "catastrophe" if a general skepticism about vaccinations broke out.


"Medical Tragedy"

Inger Atterstam, science journalist for the newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet", who uncovered the connection, speaks of a "medical tragedy" from which those responsible did not want to learn. Therefore, the victims would be left in the lurch, a promised compensation of the equivalent of 6,000 euros is nothing in view of lifelong disability. “The state must take responsibility,” demands the Association of Narcolepsy Victims.

In Denmark only the risk groups mentioned were vaccinated, around six percent of citizens. The medical officer Thea Fischer says that one was just careful about the new vaccine. 33 people died of the flu, or 5.9 per million people.


Not vaccinating was healthier

In Poland, the then Health Minister Ewa Kopacz, herself a doctor, decided to forego vaccinations entirely. The result: 4.7 people per million people died of swine flu (181 in absolute terms), but 8.1 per million (56) in vaccinated Finland. In Austria three percent of the people were vaccinated, there were 40 deaths, the death rate was the same as in Poland. There is no information about narcolepsy cases.


In spring 2009 a new variant of the flu virus spread from Mexico, the "new flu" or "swine flu"; The latter name comes from the fact that some of the precursors of the virus circulated in pigs. The disease soon appeared worldwide, more than 1.6 million cases were confirmed, there were around 19,600 confirmed deaths by summer 2010 - but that is only a fraction of the victims of a “normal” annual flu epidemic.

("Die Presse", print edition, February 24, 2012)