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Saba Button: Profoundly Disabled after Flu Jab

Saba Button pictured in her bed at home with parents Mick and Kirsten. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper Source: News Limited

The parents of a Western Australia girl who has been awarded millions in damages after a defective flu jab left her severely disabled say it’s a “massive relief” that the legal battle is over.

Mick and Kirsten Button’s daughter Saba was just 11 months old when she received the Fluvax shot in April 2010.

The then toddler suffered a hypoxic brain injury, kidney, liver and bone marrow failure. She can now no longer walk and talk and needs round-the-clock care.

Three days after Saba was admitted at Princess Margaret Hospital, Fluvax was recalled. It is now banned for children under five.

Her parents launched legal action against the vaccine’s manufacturer CSL which then launched a cross-claim against the State of WA and the Minister for Health.

Today the Federal Court of Australia approved a settlement which had been reached between the parties. While the details of the payout have been sealed, legal experts have previously said it could be more than $10 million.

Saba Button with her mum Kirsten. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper. Source: News Limited

Speaking at their Scarborough home today, the Buttons said they were pleased they could not put the legal battle behind them and move forward with Saba’s treatment.

“I suppose today is a bittersweet feeling for us,” Mr Button said. “It’s a relief to have the legal case behind us but we now have the ability to supply Saba with the care, therapy, the equipment, all the things she needs to give her the best quality of life we can.

“She is an amazingly strong little girl who is inspiring us every day.

“Again we would like to thank all our family and friends who have helped us through the last four years. It’s been a long, tough road, so we certainly couldn’t have done this without them.

“But this doesn’t just stop now. Once all the cameras are gone we’re back to business and we have a lot do with Saba.”

The now five-year-old will need extensive therapy for the rest of her life.

Mrs Button said it was relief knowing they can now afford to give their daughter the best care possible.

But, she said, they were realistic about what it could achieve.

“Saba cannot be left alone,” Mrs Button said.

Saba Button with parents Mick and Kirsten at their Scarborough home. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper. Source: News Limited

“By not having those other pressures on us makes it easier and having the funds there now to access and support that we need is amazing. And not just once or twice a week, every day.

“We are realistic as well with Saba that we are just looking for those one percenters, but they are huge for Saba if she achieves those things.”

In the claim the Button’s alleged Fluvax was defective after testing conducted by the company prior to April 2010 identified fever as a serious side effect of the 2010 batch.

However the company denied liability then filed a cross-claim against the State of WA and the Health Minister. In return the State of WA filed a defence to the cross claim denying any liability.

Settlement was reached between CSL, the State of WA and the family during recent mediation.

Today, Justice Michael Barker agreed to allow the settlement to proceed.

Mick and Kirsten Button with daughter Saba and son Cooper. Picture: Karin Calvert Source: News Limited

“Her life expectancy has been significant shortened,” he said. “Her disabilities are profound and permanent. She will require constant care for the remainder of her life.”

He also said he was pleased the parties reached the agreement saving the youngster and her parents the cost and stress of a lengthy trial.

Health Minister Kim Hames today issued a statement following the settlement saying he was please the matter was over and that he wished the Button family well.

After Saba was admitted to hospital in 2010, it emerged there had been more than 100 adverse reaction presentations to the vaccination at PMH that flu season.

But this information wasn’t passed on to the general public until after Saba was in the intensive-care unit.

An independent inquiry found “serious deficiency’’ in reporting processes and slow responses by both state and federal authorities.

It also concluded the Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Directorate was “informed of a significant rise in adverse reactions in early April 2010, but did not take any further action while they gathered data’’.

In 2012, the federal Health Department’s Therapeutic Goods Administration released data revealing Fluvax was four times more likely to trigger side-effects in adults than two rival vaccines.

The parents of a baby girl who was a victim of last year's flu vaccine debacle are suing the State Government in a potential multimillion-dollar damages claim. Mick and Kirsten Button's daughter, Saba, suffered global brain injury plus kidney, liver and bone marrow failure after prolonged seizures following her vaccination shot. She may never walk or talk. Read `SABA: THE GIRL WHO'S NEVER ALONE', also in STM in The Sunday Times. Legal experts believe a payout of more than $10 million is not out of the question. The Sunday Times understands a writ will be served in the District Court this month. Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar. End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar. The Buttons have engaged medical litigation specialist Julian Johnson, and any compensation would help pay for what happened to Saba as well as provide access to the best available treatment and care for the future. While the family declined to talk about any legal action, they have opened up on how isolated they have felt since Saba was given the CSL Fluvax shot on April 19 last year. It was only last month that the head of immunology and research at Princess Margaret Hospital met Mrs Button even though she has made numerous requests to see him about what happened to Saba. He also recently conceded: "If we had reacted sooner, then a number of children getting sick wouldn't have happened and that would have included Saba and that's something we will have to live with.' Health Minister Kim Hames has not been in touch with the family despite admitting April 22, 2010 (the day he suspended the seasonal flu vaccine program) was "one of the darkest days I have had as Health Minister'. Mr Hames said: "To be told our childhood influenza vaccination program might be putting Western Australian children at serious risk was nothing short of devastating. "I remember being told a series of presentations of children with febrile convulsions had presented to PMH and at least one was in the hospital's intensive care unit. We suspended the program within hours, a full day before the Commonwealth followed suit and suspended the program nationally.' Dr Hames said he believed the Buttons did not want to meet him or anyone from the Health Department. "I am willing to meet the family should they express a desire to do so,' he said. "Our advice has been the family wished to maintain their privacy as they dealt with the ongoing care of their daughter. I will continue to respect that request.' But the Button family deny this. "At the time in ICU we were asked if we wanted the media involved and we said a definite 'no',' Mrs Button said. "But we never said anything to anyone else. "Definitely, no one from the Department of Health or Kim Hames' office has come to see us or introduce themselves.' Mr Button said: ``We haven't had any feedback from the Health Department or the Minister.' Before Saba had her shot there had been more than 100 "adverse reaction' presentations at PMH as well as dozens of troubling reports around the state. But this information wasn't passed on to the general public until after Saba was in the intensive-care unit. An independant inquiry found "serious deficiency' in reporting processes and slow responses by both state and federal authorities. It also concluded the Department of Health's Communicable Disease Control Directorate was "informed of a significant rise in adverse reactions in early April 2010, but did not take any further action while they gathered data'. Saba has been back to PMH 11 times and still suffers seizures and respiratory problems. The CSL Fluvax product is not available for children under five this year. In 2008 compensation believed to be $6 million was awarded to a Perth family whose 10-month-old son was left blind, deaf and brain-damaged after a misdiagnosis. Nicola and Peter Netherway sued St John of God Hospital and a doctor after their son, Jeremy, was treated for a virus when he had the potentially fatal bacterial infection pneumococcal meningitis. One of the largest medical negligence payouts in Australia occurred in 2001 when the NSW Supreme Court awarded Calandre Simpson $14 million dollars (reduced on appeal to $11million) after a botched forcep delivery left her with cerebral palsy.

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