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New narcolepsy-swine flu study could open door to more compensation

Narcolepsy sufferers whose benefit applications have been rejected could have another chance depending on the results of a new THL study on the links between the disease and H1N1 shots administered five years ago.

Olli Vesanen
High school student Olli Vesanen often nods off while studying or playing his guitar. Image: Suvi Pirinen / Yle

Olli Vesanen, a high school student in the south-central city of Jyväskylä, has been suffering from the sleeping disorder narcolepsy since 2009. 

He says it's been difficult to keep up at school as he often suddenly drops off to sleep in class. At home, he sometimes slumps over while practicing his guitar.

Olli is one of some 150 recipients of narcolepsy benefits, most of them children and youth. More than three million euros in benefits have been paid out to patients whose illness has been linked to a swine flu inoculation drive nearly five years ago.

New findings due this spring

Most applicants face long delays before their benefits are approved -- and about 50 applications have been rejected or are still pending. But those denied compensation may have a second chance this spring after completion of a study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

It is trying to determine the link between the H1N1 vaccine Pandemrix administered in Finland and the debilitating sleep disorder. At present, compensation can only be sought if symptoms began within eight months of receiving the swine flu jab. But THL officials say that time period may be extended depending on the findings of the study. In that case, rejected applications will be reconsidered.

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