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Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2019 Aug;38(8):873-876. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000002398.

Narcolepsy and Pandemic Influenza Vaccination: What We Need to Know to be Ready for the Next Pandemic.

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From the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.
Centre of Vaccinology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Divison of Infectious Diseases, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio.


After the initial identification of the H1N1 pandemic influenza strain in Mexico in April 2009 and its subsequent global spread, several monovalent influenza vaccines were developed as part of the pandemic response. Three of these vaccines, Pandemrix, Arepanrix and Focetria were adjuvanted. One of these, the AS03-adjuvanted Pandemrix vaccine, was primarily used in Europe. Following widespread Pandemrix vaccine administration in Scandinavia, an increased risk of narcolepsy was noted in observational studies. Subsequently, this increased risk was also reported in other European countries as well. In contrast, studies from Canada of a similar AS03-adjuvanted vaccine, Arepanrix, did not demonstrate a similar increased risk of narcolepsy. No studies have identified an increased risk of narcolepsy following the MF59-adjuvanted Focetria vaccine. For many potential pandemic influenza strains, adjuvants might be required to solicit a protective immune response. Thus, it is critical that we understand the nature of the association between adjuvanted vaccine receipt and narcolepsy. Here, we present a potential hypothesis for narcolepsy seen during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in AS03-adjuvanted influenza vaccine recipients.

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