SEASONAL flu shots can trigger febrile fits in young children at nine times the expected rate and should not be given to healthy under-fives this winter, the Chief Medical Officer advised yesterday in a warning that puts the world on alert.
Australia's baffling spike in severe side-effects may jeopardise the roll-out of the 2010 flu vaccine in the northern hemisphere, where the US, the European Union and Canada are awaiting the results of an investigation to be led by immunologist Peter Doherty.
Chief Medical Officer Jim Bishop said the 2010 seasonal flu shot had triggered febrile convulsions at a rate of nine in every 1000 children younger than five -- nine times the expected rate. [Nearly 1 in 100 young kids had a seizure: a rate unheard of for other vaccines. The CSL vaccine is the one used in Australia, and it is unknown whether other manufacturers' vaccines cause the same, or other, complications--Nass]
The head of Australia's investigation into the spate of serious side-effects from the suspended pediatric vaccine said one hypothesis was that the killed-off cells were causing a "cytokine storm" -- a severe overreaction to the vaccine by healthy children's immune systems. Such reactions have been blamed for the death toll from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Professor Doherty told The Australian the vaccine "could be doing something along those lines".
Pharmaceutical giant CSL yesterday announced a voluntary recall of the pediatric version of its Fluvax seasonal flu vaccine from medical clinics and distributors, as a "precautionary measure".
The federal government has appointed Professor Doherty -- who shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1996 - to lead a committee of experts who will collaborate with the US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta. "Everyone is interested in what we're discovering, and we will be making information available to our colleagues at the WHO, the US and Canada," Professor Bishop told The Australian yesterday. "The EU Centre for Disease Control has been in contact and we've had teleconferences with them. Our information is important to them, and they are going to take our findings into account."
But this isn't true. The truth, discussed later in the article, is that swine flu vaccine caused the same amount of extra Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) cases as seasonal flu vaccine causes: one more case than would otherwise occur per million vaccinated.