Toddler dies after seasonal flu shot – health authorities on alert

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Last Friday, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor Jim Bishop had announced his decision to suspend free seasonal flu vaccinations after more than 20 under-five kids mainly in Western Australia developed reactions to the shots. They developed fever, vomiting and convulsions. One of the children was reported to be severely ill.

The Queensland Coroner is also investigating the cot death of a two year old girl, Ashley Epapara on April 9th following seasonal flu vaccine administration. Prof Bishop said he only learned of the girl's death on Sunday, and the cause was now a matter for the coroner.

He has ordered a review of all hospitals to get a clearer picture of the problem and urged all healthcare staff and parents to report any adverse reaction to the shots. He went on to say, “We've asked all of the CHOs (chief health officers) to go through their actual hospital records, not just depending on reporting, to get this particular problem with the toddlers well defined…And they are working hard to give us that…We haven't seen a lot of signals from other states (beyond Western Australia) but that doesn't mean we stop looking for it…We will have more information later on in the week.”

He said in an interview,”We're looking through all the records, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) have not been notified with any particular signal from any other state. But we've, the chief health officers and myself are going back through all the cases and seeing if we can see increased incidence…We've got batches of all the vaccine that goes out across the country, so we can identify the batches that have gone to Western Australia and the TGA will be undertaking their tests this week.”

He expected a surge in reporting of cases after the alert on Friday. “I think the advantage of having an alert go out on Friday ... is that it brings this into sharp effect…And therefore we anticipate a high level of reporting and we'd encourage people to report.”

According to him, the swine flu vaccine is safe. “it doesn't seem to be causing this problem. We haven't had reports at all of any spike in febrile convulsions for the swine flu (vaccine),” he said.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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