Western Australia Minister for Health Kim Hames
GPs To Get Clarity On Flu Vaccination As Investigations Continue
Victor P Taffa
General practitioners across Western Australia are set to receive new advice on the seasonal influenza vaccination program for healthy children aged under five following the Commonwealth Government’s continued suspension of the program according to Health Minister Kim Hames.
“I know there is a lot of confusion, not just from members of the public but also of the medical profession, following the indefinite suspension of this program and it is important we continue to protect ourselves from influenza, which can be a severe and debilitating disease.” Dr. Hames said.
“With winter here it is important to remember that seasonal influenza vaccinations for all other age groups should continue as normal.”
“Data compiled in WA showed a clear link between young children having severe reactions to the seasonal influenza vaccine manufactured by CSL (Fluvax).”
“We did not find a link between other influenza vaccinations and severe reactions however we accept the Commonwealth’s decision to continue suspension of the program.” Dr. Hames said.
The Minister said general practitioners would be told the seasonal influenza vaccine produced by CSL was still suitable for children over five years and adults, including high-risk adults such as pregnant women.
“Ensuring adults are still vaccinated will help keep community levels of influenza at a minimum.” the Minister said.
Panvax, which is the vaccine against swine flu, was still safe for healthy children aged six months and older.
The remaining two brands of seasonal influenza vaccine, Influvac and Vaxigrip, may be suitable for children aged under five who are considered at high-risk.
Dr. Hames said the data supplied to the Commonwealth from WA had been pivotal to the move to continue suspension of the vaccination program.
This year, WA Health has reported 56 cases of febrile convulsions in children under five; 55 following Fluvax and one where the manufacturer was unknown.
More than 10,000 doses of Fluvax were given in WA and over 3,000 doses of Influvax. Less than 100 doses of Vaxigrip were given.
“WA Health staff have worked tirelessly in the past few weeks to document and analyse clinical and epidemiological information, and provide that to national authorities.” the Minister said.
“I look forward to restarting the program for healthy children aged under five when the science is clearer about the cause of this year’s problems.”
Dr. Hames said a review of the Department of Health’s response to the program suspension was ongoing and results would be known in coming months.