Fluvax overall safe, side-effects minor: AMA

The AMA says Fluvax is overall safe and it may only have local side-effects on some adults, after the government decided to use the vaccine in Australia again.

The AMA says Fluvax is overall safe and it may only have local side-effects on some adults, after the government decided to re-introduce the vaccine in Australia.

The President of the Australian Medical Association Steve Hambleton says reports that Fluvax is not safe are wrong and says the AMA supports the re-introduction of the vaccine, as the risks associated with it are outweighed by its benefits.

Fluvax - a product owned by pharmaceutical giant CSL - was banned for children under five after it triggered febrile convulsions in one per cent of children in 2010, The Australian reported today.

Mr Hambleton admitted that's true but said the vaccine will not be administered to children under 10.

"That was in the past and the vaccine is not going to for kids under the age of 10. When we give the vaccine we try to stimulate the immune system, so we expect a minimum reaction.

"The benefits for the people we are targeting outweighs the risks of contracting the flu".

Mr Hambleton says patients should consult their GP and added the vaccine is administered only to people that really need it, like people with chronic disease.

The federal Health Department's Therapeutic Goods Administration had found Fluvax is also four times more likely to cause side-effects in adults, The Australian reported.

Mr Hambleton says while some reaction to the vaccine is normal, there were "only localised side effects, like redness on the arm, and not systemic side effects".

A spokeswoman from the Health Department said the decision had been made to give CSL the contract as it was the only vaccine manufacturer able to guarantee enough supplies.

"CSL is the only onshore manufacturer of influenza vaccine and, as such, is the only supplier that can guarantee sufficient supply of influenza vaccine to allow the national vaccination program to commence on 15 March each year, and ensure protection of people well in advance of the influenza season," the spokeswoman told the newspaper.

However, children under 10 years of age would be given Fluarix or Vaxigrip, which is are made by British and French pharmaceutical companies respectively.

The immunisation program offers free flu shots to a range of eligible people, including the over-65s, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pregnant women and homeless people.

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