The manufacturer of the controversial MMR vaccine is being sued over claims that another of its triple inoculations has caused cerebral palsy and autism in hundreds of British children.
A group of 120 disabled children have joined a class action, which claims that their illnesses were caused by the three-in-one diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccine made by Glaxo Wellcome and the Wellcome Foundation.
Glaxo Wellcome is now part of GlaxoSmithKline, the company which is facing a separate claim by several thousand children whose autism was allegedly triggered by the company’s measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The Government has previously admitted that the DPT vaccine can cause problems in some children and paid limited compensation to victims under the 1979 Vaccine Damages Payments Act.
Debbie Murphy of Alexander Harris, a Manchester-based solicitors firm that is leading the class action, said: “We are anxious to prove that a link does exist and we believe that there is enough evidence to mount a case against the manufacturers.”
One of the children allegedly harmed by the DPT vaccine is Karl Radunovic, 8, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, who is suing through his mother, Elizabeth.
Karl was injected with the DPT vaccine when only a few weeks old and immediately reacted badly. Doctors still believed that he was well, but Mrs Radunovic was convinced that there had been a fundamental change in his behaviour.
“The doctors thought I had a lazy child, but I knew that this was not how a baby acts,” she said. “I knew that he was ill. He was like a rag doll, his head lolling to one side.”
At the age of 18 months, Karl was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He now needs to be monitored 24 hours a day.
“We want the courts to get to the bottom of all this, and prove that the medical companies should bear some responsibility,” she said.
The DPT vaccine is usually given to babies, normally at two, three and four months of age. It consists of dead bacteria and inactive toxins which stimulate a baby’s immune system to fight the diseases.
The element of the vaccine known as pertussis, or more commonly whooping cough, has previously been linked with a rise in childhood ailments including asthma and cerebral palsy.
At present, the legal action has been granted legal aid, subject to final approval being given by the Legal Services Commission. A Glaxo SmithKline spokesman declined to comment on any impending litigation.