Suspect flu vaccine to remain in use

The Age
Jun. 01, 2010

AUSTRALIAN-MADE flu vaccine Fluvax, found to trigger a nine times higher than expected rate of convulsions in babies, will remain available for use but subject to precautionary measures.

Fluvax, made by CSL, has been identified as being the most likely trigger of 59 convulsion cases in Western Australia and about 20 cases elsewhere, including six in Victoria. All babies fully recovered.

Despite investigations over the past month, experts have failed to identify a biological explanation for the higher rate of convulsions.

These occurred in nine of out of every 1000 children vaccinated, when the expected rate would be less than one in 1000.

Commonwealth chief medical officer Jim Bishop yesterday announced the continued suspension of seasonal flu vaccination for healthy children aged under five.

CSL is also being required to declare the increased convulsion risk in information leaflets distributed with Fluvax.

Professor Bishop said that where infants were at risk of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, and an influenza shot was advisable, parents should discuss with their doctor whether a seasonal flu vaccination would be the best option.

He urged caution in the use of Fluvax for under-five-year-olds and said the other two seasonal flu vaccines available, Influvac and Vaxigrip, were not yet completely in the clear because of lower use in Australia.

An alternative for healthy children and those at risk of other diseases is swine flu vaccine Panvax.

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