Sleeping sickness due to swine flu vaccination

Study: Mixture of swine flu vaccine and drug enhancer increases the risk of sleeping sickness

Swine flu broke out almost four years ago. Many children and adolescents were injected with the Pandemrix vaccine. Since then, the incidence of sleeping sickness (narcolepsy) has risen sharply. The cause has been known to scientists for a long time.

Three studies conducted in Sweden, Ireland and Finland have found increased cases among vaccinated children and adolescents. According to the study data, the risk after a Pandemrix vaccination increases to 3.6 to 6 additional cases per 100,000 minors. So far there is no such study in Germany.

So far, it has not been possible to explain why the swine flu vaccine increases the risk of sleeping sickness. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) suspects that an interaction with genetic factors could play a role. Experts also suspect that additional influences such as certain infectious diseases, in particular respiratory diseases, could be partly responsible. However, the exact mechanisms are largely unknown and could not be determined by studies carried out to date.

Researchers from Finland have found in the course of a study that children who have taken part in a H1N1 vaccination are at 12.7 percent higher risk of developing narcolepsy. The study was conducted among students between the ages of nine and 14. Children who were not vaccinated were used as a comparison group.

The researchers suspect that it is not the vaccine itself that is responsible, but the active substance enhancer. This contains the substance adjuvant AS03. According to the scientists, this could "potentiate itself with the virus". Thus, an "interaction between drug enhancer and vaccine is the cause of the increased narcolepsy risk".

Narcolepsy is actually a very rare disease. According to the German Society for Sleep Medicine (DGSM), around 40,000 people suffer from the sleeping sickness. The Paul Ehrlich Institute reports that one in a million children in Germany fall ill each year. In the event of an outbreak, those affected usually suffer from sudden compulsion to sleep, loss of muscle tension, an unnatural rhythm of sleep and sleep paralysis. The symptoms usually vary in frequency and severity. To date, it has not been finally clarified how and why the disease develops. Doctors assume that environmental influences and genetic pre-pollution are the likely triggers.

The researchers are not 100% sure. This is because there must be other factors that trigger sleeping sickness. The vaccine pluss enhancer alone is not enough to trigger the serious illness. However, a connection can be established since the proportion of narcolepsy increased strongly in vaccination-intensive countries such as Sweden or Finland. To date, there are no separate findings for Germany. (sb)

Image: Ernst Rose /

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