According to latest figures the number of young children vaccinated against the flu in WA this year has plummeted almost 80 per cent. This is concerning for health officials who believe that parents have been scared off by last year's spate of seizures after the jabs.
Perth child Saba Button was left severely disabled last year after having the CSL vaccine Fluvax. WA bore the brunt of the high rate of adverse reactions last year. In April last year, authorities suspended the use of the Fluvax vaccine for under fives 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. They found that of a study group of 256 children vaccinated so far, less than 10 per cent suffered side effects compared to 50 per cent for the Fluvax jab.
According to yesterday’s announcement by the Health Department since the new flu vaccine became available this year, 5300 WA children under five had been vaccinated compared with 25,000 at the same time in the previous two years of the program.
Communicable Disease Control director Paul Armstrong said the vaccine was particularly important for children with underlying medical conditions and Fluvax was no longer used for those under five. He said a study reported online yesterday by the Medical Journal of Australia showed few adverse reactions to this year's vaccine.
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. “That vaccine has not been used for children aged under five in Australia this year,” he said. He added that poor uptake of the vaccines is likely to result in more people being hospitalized with flu-related problems.