Between November 8 and 25, thirteen Italians died within 48 hours of receiving a flu vaccine. Developed by Novartis, the vaccine in question was developed for patients with weaker immune systems or underlying conditions.
The Italian health ministry, Agenxia Italina del Farmaco, has not proven a direct correlation between the vaccine and the deaths. But as a precaution, AIFA suspended two batches of the flu vaccine. That’s equivalent to 500,000 doses. Initial testing has not found anything wrong with the vaccine.
Novartis agrees. In a statement, the company noted that its own extensive analysis had found “no causal link between vaccination and these serious adverse events.”
Flu vaccines are safe and effective for most people. Generally, people only experience mild reactions from the shot, ranging from pain at the site of the injection to a sore throat or fever.
But while it remains unclear what happened in Italy, these events offer an important reminder that even a common vaccine like the flu shot can have serious side effects.
For example, in rare situations, the flu vaccine can cause what’s known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome. GBS is a neurologic condition that causes paralysis throughout a person’s entire body and requires immediate hospitalization. Generally, the condition begins as weakness in the legs before spreading to the rest of the body. Patients will often experience particular trouble with facial movements, such as talking, eating or swallowing.
GBS afflicts both sexes equally. But only one person in every 100,000 contracts the disease.
In even rarer cases, GBS can develop into what’s known as Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. CIDP is another neurologic disorder characterized by similar symptoms — weakness in the legs first, then elsewhere in the body.
While the exact cause of CIDP remains unknown, doctors believe an attack by the body’s immune system on the nerves is responsible. Fortunately, the incidence rate of CIDP is estimated to be between 1.5 and 3.6 per million people.
For those who have developed GBS or CIDP from a flu shot, help is available. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was founded in 1988 to financially compensate anyone who suffers from vaccine-related injuries.
For the most up-to-date list of vaccines covered by the VICP, check out the vaccine injury table published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
While the investigation of the Novartis flu vaccine continues in Italy, it’s important to remember that even common vaccines carry rare but serious side effects — and that there is help for those who suffer from these negative reactions.
If you have experienced an adverse reaction such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or any other illness subsequent to receiving a vaccine, please contact us today. Vaccine attorney Leah Durant is available to provide you with a free telephone consultation. This vaccine attorney is a seasoned litigator whose practice is dedicated to serving those injured by vaccines.