Monitoring vaccine safety: is it enough?

THIS time last year, West Australian health authorities were temporarily suspending their influenza vaccine program for children aged five years or younger (MO, 22 April 2010).

In only one month, 23 young children had presented to Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital with febrile convulsions, and this spike was causing concern.1

Flu expert Dr Alan Hampson admits the situation caught him by surprise.

“While there may have been reports of such untoward reactions with the impure whole-virus vaccines some decades ago, this was something previously not reported and quite unexpected,” Dr Hampson, who is chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group, says. 

“When I heard the initial reports, I expected that it would be explained by something such as an outbreak intercurrent viral illness. When it did start to appear that it was indeed a vaccine-associated effect, I was really concerned.”