Link between swine flu vaccine, narcolepsy probed

A link between the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine and the sleeping disorder narcolepsy will be probed by the European Medicines Agency after concerns have been raised in Finland and Sweden.

"The European Medicines Agency has launched a review of Pandemrix on the request of the European Commission to investigate whether there is a link between cases of narcolepsy and vaccination with Pandemrix," the EMA said in a release. "A limited number of cases was reported, all collected through spontaneous reporting systems, mainly in Sweden and Finland."

According to AFP, Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare has recommended this week that Pandemrix's use be halted until the probe into a link with childhood narcolepsy is concluded.

Sweden's Medical Products Agency also began an inquiry into Pandemrix last week after reports arose that children who had received the vaccine developed symptoms consistent with nacrolepsy.

"Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder that causes a person to fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly," EMA said in its release. "Its precise cause is unknown, but it is generally considered to be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including infections."

The use of Pandemrix was authorized by the European Union in September 2009 and has been administered to at least 30.8 million Europeans since. It was used extensively during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.