Parents cautious of flu vaccine in lieu of last year’s reactions

A new report has some in Washington concerned that parents are putting off their child’s flu vaccine in response to an up rise in adverse events reported last year.

The article, written on June 7, 2011, for the WA News, states, “A massive spike in adverse reactions to the flu vaccine last year has resulted in too many parents being overly cautious ahead of the upcoming flu season.”

The WA Health Department says major problems with last year’s flu vaccination program has led to a significant drop in immunization rates this year. The Health Department’s Paul Armstrong says immunization rates are down 78% this year.

“Vaccination rates are down significantly, and it can be largely put down to the fact that parents are worried their children may experience the high fevers and convulsions similar to hundreds of children who had the jab last year” according to one expert.

In April last year, authorities suspended the use of the Fluvax® vaccine for children under five after hundreds of children suffered side-effects including high fever, vomiting and convulsions.

In response, WA researchers began a study in March this year to test two alternative vaccines called Vaxigrip® and Influvac®.

Researchers found in a study group of 256 vaccinated children, less than 10% suffered side effects from Vaxigrip® and Influvac® compared to 50% for the Fluvax® jab.

Associate Professor Chris Blyth says it was important to test the alternative vaccines before this year’s influenza program started.

“We clearly needed to demonstrate to the community the safety of these vaccines,” he said. He says the alternative vaccines will be used instead of the Fluvax® jab.

“The two vaccines that we are using this year we know are safe so we would urge parents to consider getting their children vaccinated and to let them know that the evidence is that these vaccines are very safe,” he said. “The data that’s coming out from our monitoring systems backs that up.”

In a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia, Associate Professor Blyth said that of the 2227 doses administered to children under five years of age between March 15 and April 29 this year, there were adverse reactions in four children – two with high temperatures, one with vomiting and diarrhea and one with fever and convulsions after four days, a drastic difference compared to last year.

Professor Blyth said it was important that parents moved on from the adverse reactions from the trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) last year and to seriously consider vaccinating their child before the flu season takes hold in the next two months.

“It would be hard to say that [the rates being down] is not related to last year,” he said. “Vaccination rates are much more reduced compared to previous years.”

In the letter, Professor Blyth said early data from a safety study group of vaccinations among children under five years of age demonstrated that the adverse events of 2010 have not been observed in WA this year.

“Ongoing surveillance is underway and will continue,” Prof Blyth wrote in the letter.

He said that the flu season has not officially taken hold yet in the state of WA. It is expected to be in full swing by the end of June. And he is concerned that the poor response to the vaccine will likely result in more people being hospitalized with flu-related problems.

As of this report, there have only been 5,000 children vaccinated in the state this year compared to previous years where 25,000 would have had flu shots.

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