Home > Health > Call to beef up vaccine monitoring

Call to beef up vaccine monitoring

Danny Rose

October 31, 2010


There are calls for more active monitoring of vaccination programs in Australia, after this year’s seasonal flu jab was linked to a spate of serious fevers in young children.

Use of the trivalent flu jab was suspended nationally in April for children under five years – an unprecedented move – after a string of adverse reactions, mostly in WA.

Writing with fellow experts in an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Michael Gold said the case had revealed the shortcomings of existing “passive surveillance“.

“The apparent rate of febrile convulsions following vaccination was five to nine per thousand doses administered, about 50 times higher than that reported following measles-mumps-rubella vaccination,” wrote Dr Gold, a senior lecturer in paediatrics at the University of Adelaide.

“… The inability of existing surveillance systems to detect the early signal of (this) within 24 hours of receiving 2010 seasonal trivalent vaccine, demonstrates that passive surveillance cannot be relied on as the sole means of surveillance.”

Dr Gold said a review, requested by the Minister for Health in WA, had also highlighted “significant deficiencies” with the way vaccine programs were currently monitored.

Passive surveillance relies on hospitals and other health care providers, as well as the public, recognising and reporting suspected cases of adverse reactions to a vaccination.

Dr Gold said this led to under-reporting, inconsistencies caused by differing approaches state by state and a delayed reaction in those rare cases where there was a problem.

The editorial calls for the urgent establishment of a new national body to provide uniform monitoring and “active surveillance”, looking for adverse reaction cases in the community.

“This is critical to ensure that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks,” Dr Gold said.

“In the aftermath of the 2010 seasonal trivalent influenza experience, maintaining the public’s trust requires that we get started on building the … surveillance system that Australia deserves.”

© 2010 AAP

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