Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Department of Health
83. To ask the Minister for Health if he will report on the State Claims Agency dealings with the survivors of those who have suffered adverse reactions from the Pandemrix swine influenza vaccine administered in December 2009; his views on whether it is best practice that court cases directly involving victims are avoided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50604/18]
While I cannot comment on individual cases or matters that are the subject of litigation, one of which is a case managed by the High Court concerning the issue of Discovery, I can provide background information on this litigation and clarify matters that are already in the public domain.
As of 3 December 2018, the State Claims Agency (SCA) has been notified of potential claims being initiated against the Minister for Health, the Health Services Executive and GlaxoSmithKline Biological SA by eighty three (83) individuals and in 62 of these cases formal legal proceedings have been issued. The plaintiffs allege personal injury in which they claim the development of narcolepsy resulted from the administration of the H1N1 pandemic vaccine.
The management of these cases transferred to the State Claims Agency on 15 October 2013 when the Taoiseach signed the National Treasury Management Agency (Delegation of Claims Management Functions) (Amendment) Order 2013. It would not be appropriate for me as Minister to interfere in the management of these claims which were delegated to the State Claims Agency.
Up until 31st October 2018 the number of reports with clinical information confirming a diagnosis of narcolepsy in relation to individuals vaccinated with Pandemrix or Celvapan, received by the Health Products Regulatory Authority is 95 - Pandemrix (n=91) and Celvapan (n=3) and one report of narcolepsy in a patient where the brand of pandemic vaccine administered to the patient was unknown to the reporter (n=1).
My main priority as Minister for Health is that individuals and families affected receive appropriate health and social care supports. My Department continues to engage with the Health Service Executive, the Department of Education and Skills, and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to ensure the provision of a wide range of services and supports, on an ex-gratia basis for those who have received a diagnosis of narcolepsy following administration of the H1N1 pandemic vaccine. The HSE’s Advocacy Unit acts as liaison with other service providers and Government Departments to facilitate access to required services. It is in regular contact with the individuals affected and their families; and regional co-ordinators have been appointed to assist by providing advice, information and access to local services. These supports include discretionary medical cards, reimbursement of expenses associated with diagnosis and treatment, home tuition and learning supports.
The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to "put in place a scheme, on a no-fault basis, that will respond to the needs of people with disability arising from vaccination". The policy objectives in putting in place a scheme to meet the needs of people with disability arising from vaccination are to provide fair and just compensation for those who may have been injured by a vaccine, to reduce the costs to the State by providing an alternative to litigation and to maintaining public confidence in immunisation. This matter is under consideration by my Department with a view to developing a proposal regarding a vaccine damage scheme based on evidence concerning, vaccine damage schemes, legal advices and consultation with other Government bodies.
I continue to engage with the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the Minister for Finance on what further improvements can be made to the legal framework governing the management of, inter alia, certain vaccine damage cases.
I wish to acknowledge the impact on the lives of these people and families affected by narcolepsy and reiterate my commitment to the on-going provision of appropriate services and supports.