'I feel responsible' - Mother breaks down as she tells court she trusted State over swine flu vaccination

A mother has told the High Court if she had known then what she knows now about the swine flu vaccine, she would not have given consent for her daughter to get it.

'I feel responsible' - Mother breaks down as she tells court she trusted State over swine flu vaccination

A mother has told the High Court if she had known then what she knows now about the swine flu vaccine, she would not have given consent for her daughter to get it.

Aoife Bennett’s mother Mary said her family trusted the State, the HSE and the Department of Health chief medical officer when the Pandemrix vaccine was made available 10 years ago.

“The State was offering it, not the shop down the road, I completely trusted the chief medical officer", she said.

She added the decision to give her daughter the swine flu Pandemrix vaccine was a family one and Aoife took her parents' advice.

“In some ways, I feel responsible. Aoife took our advice. If I had known then what I know now, I would not have consented," she told the packed courtroom.

She said after hearing the chief medical officer on radio she took from it that it was absolutely necessary to get the vaccine.

She said:

"I remember the reassurance of the chief medical officer that it was safe. That was good enough for me. We would have been doing our civic duty.”

She added she trusted the State, the HSE and the Chief Medical Officer ”that they would not give out a vaccine unless it was safe.”

The mother who told the court she “was just a parent“ broke down in tears after outlining how her teenage daughter, who is one of quadruplets, got “tireder and tireder” and could not get out of the bed in the morning after getting the vaccine in December 2009.

After Christmas 2009, she said Aoife began to miss school and they had no idea what was causing her tiredness.

She said her daughter had to sleep downstairs, fell in the shower and often slept through medical appointments. Mrs Bennett said she gave up her job to care for Aoife and the narcolepsy was not diagnosed until April 2011

She said she would have expected the vaccine would have been rigorously tested.

“If I had known it was not tested on Aoife’s age group we would not have given consent for Aoife and our other children to have it,” she stated.

Her counsel Jonathan Kilfeather SC put it to her that the defence say there is no link between narcolepsy and the vaccine.

Mrs Bennett replied: “I don’t believe it,” she said.

Aoife Bennett coming to court today. Pic: Collins
Aoife Bennett coming to court today. Pic: Collins

Aoife Bennett was only 16 years old when she got the vaccine as part of a mass vaccination programme as the country braced itself for a threatened human swine flu pandemic 10 years ago.

It was the seventh day of Ms Bennett’s action which is a test case for about one hundred other cases relating to the alleged side effects of the swine flu vaccine.

Ms Bennett of Lakelands, Naas, Co. Kildare, a third-level student has sued the Minister for Health, the HSE, the vaccine producer Glaxosmithkline Biologicals S.A. and Health Products Regulatory Authority.

In the proceedings, it is claimed HSE brochures on the vaccine had the effect of allegedly misleading those who read them as to the safety of the Pandemrix vaccine and the alleged risk associated with its use. It is claimed the brochures contained advice which was not consistent with the the actual facts.

It is further claimed the Health Minister and HSE ought to have known those who read the brochures were likely to come to an alleged erroneous conclusion as to the safety of the Pandemrix vaccine and whether it had been adequately tested at all on children and adolescents prior to its release to the public.

Glaxosmithkline, it is claimed, demanded an indemnity from liability from the State before it would agree to supply the vaccine.

The Health Products Regulation Authority, it is alleged, was well aware there was an alternative vaccine which had more clinical data available in relation to its safety and efficacy.

All the defendants deny the claims and deny liability.

The case before Mr Justice Michael McGrath continues.

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