By Bonnie Malkin
Doctors across Australia have been ordered to stop giving young children the seasonal flu vaccine after 44 children fell ill hours after being immunised.
The otherwise healthy children, all aged under five, suffered fevers, vomiting and febrile convulsions after receiving the vaccination. More than 20 were admitted to hospital and at least one child is seriously ill.
Jim Bishop, the country’s chief medical officer, said that he was suspending vaccinations for under-five as a “precautionary measure”. He said that children who had received the vaccine in the last 24 hours should be monitored closely by their parents.
“Until we know more we’ve suggested that we don’t use that [seasonal flu vaccine] for the moment in children under five,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“I’m advising all doctors today not to use it until we know a bit more.
“This may be part of the normal pattern once we see the whole picture, or it may be more than we would expect. “Therefore I just think it’s wise and precautionary not to use it in children under five.”
The Western Australia health department is investigating whether the reactions were caused by a particular type of vaccine or batch.
The manufacturer, CSL, said it was aware of the matter and was working closely with authorities.
As Australian heads into winter, the government aims to immunise two million people considered most a risk from influenza. The ban does not include swine flu vaccinations.
Professor Robert Booy, head of clinical research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance, said the number of adverse reactions to the vaccine was concerning but that most people would benefit from the vaccine.
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