October, 2013: Narcolepsy

Back in 2009, the Influenza vaccine Pandemrix was found to cause an increase in Narcolepsy. Many articles were written about this (here and here). Even the CDC released a statement agreeing with this conclusion. They assert that (1) the vaccine was not released in the United States and (2) there is no association between U.S. Influenza vaccines and Narcolepsy.

So there should be no evidence of a link between the two in VAERS.

Let’s find out for ourselves.

Make a Graph of Vaccines. In Section 2 of the search form, restrict the graph to those VAERS cases where the Symptom is “Narcolepsy”. Then, in Section 5 (Demographics), set the Location to Exclude Foreign so that non-US cases are excluded. The result looks like this:

There aren’t many Narcolepsy cases in the VAERS database, so these results are not very strong. But VAERS data is known for underreporting, a phenomenona even acknowledged by the CDC. Nevertheless, the trend is clear: most cases of Narcolepsy are associated with the Influenza vaccine. Different versions of that vaccine appear in this graph. The most significant is Fluzone (VAERS code FLU3) and Flumist (VAERS code FLUN3), although the H1N1 Flu vaccines are also strongly represented.

Interestingly, the Gardasil vaccine (VAERS code HPV4) also has a relatively large number of cases associated with Narcopelsy.

This graph shows that there is evidence of the Influenza vaccine being related to Narcolepsy. But the bigger question is: was it a one-time problem back in 2009? What if all of these cases happened then? To find out, make the very same search, but extend it so that it is a Graph of Vaccines and Year of Vaccination. The result is here (showing only the Influenza vaccines):

The graph shows that there were indeed a number of Narcolepsy cases associated with the 2009 Influenza vaccine. But the association was just as strong in 2010 and even 2012. VAERS data suggests that the problem is real and still unresolved.