Advisory comittee to CDC recommends not using Australian flu vaccine
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an advisory to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is recommending that the Australian flu vaccine Fluvax (double-check the brand name, CSL also makes Afluria and it is not clear which one the ACIP is referring to, based on the article reporting the original problem with the vaccine, it appears to be Fluvax) produced by CSL Biotherapies, which was associated with highly increased instances of convulsions and fever in kids who got the shot in Australia and New Zealand, should not be used by US doctors unless no other brands of flu vaccine are available, and only with children aged 5 or higher. This is a precautionary measure, since investigations on the Australian phenomenon have not been able to explain what in the vaccine could cause these higher rates of side effects.
Committee members were concerned about the unexplained higher rate of fevers and related seizures seen in young children who got the vaccine earlier this year in Australia and New Zealand. In kids under 5, the rates were roughly 10 times that of other flu vaccines. No deaths have been linked to the problem.
This news shows that the government bodies are keeping a close eye on, and are opting for the safe approach with vaccines, contrary to what certain sources of information claim. It is important to keep in mind that the cautionary approach applies only to one specific brand of flu vaccine, not to flu vaccines in general. There is no indication that the other brands pose risks higher than any other year. You should still vaccinate your children for flu, however make a note to ask your doctor which vaccine she’ll be using, to ensure that your child, if under 5 years of age, does not receive the Australian brand, which has been linked to increased rates of seizures and fevers.
Update 08/12/10 – I have been able to verify that the vaccine this recommendation applies to is AFLURIA. For more details please read the official Centers for Disease Control update on the matter.