A toddler left critically ill in intensive care is among dozens of Australian children immunised with the banned Fluvax vaccine in the past month.
The child -- believed to be 22 months old -- was admitted to intensive care after suffering a seizure when a GP in the ACT administered Fluvax early this month. Fluvax was banned two years ago for use in children younger than five after triggering febrile convulsions at 10 times the expected rate.
Australian pharmaceutical giant CSL, which manufactures Fluvax, announced last night it would change its packaging next year to alert doctors to the fact the vaccine was not licensed for the under-fives. It will also send fridge magnets to all GP and immunisation clinics, with a warning not to give Fluvax to young children.
The federal Health Department told The Weekend Australian yesterday that one child had suffered a febrile convulsion.
A spokeswoman refused to say whether the child had recovered or remained in hospital.
Two other children had suffered vomiting and fever after being given Fluvax, she said, but they were regarded as "unconfirmed adverse events".
The Health Department told The Australian on Thursday a "small number" of children had wrongly been given Fluvax this year, but refused to reveal the number. The Weekend Australian can reveal that at least 57 children have been immunised with Fluvax this flu season -- overwhelmingly by private GPs.
State health authorities revealed yesterday that 22 children in NSW, 17 in Victoria, nine in Western Australia, five in South Australia and four in the ACT had been given CSL's banned Fluvax shot. Queensland Health said it did not have any statistics.
ACT Health said it was aware of three cases in addition to the toddler who was admitted to intensive care. "ACT Health is assured that every possible assistance is being provided to the family," a spokesman said. "The vaccine was not administered by a Health Directorate employee and so we are not in a position to comment on any disciplinary action."
Perth mother Kirsten Button, whose daughter Saba was left brain-damaged, epileptic and quadriplegic after a Fluvax jab shortly before her first birthday, said yesterday it was a "slap in the face" that another child had suffered a seizure. "How can this happen again?" she said.
"We are absolutely devastated, shocked and horrified to hear that despite what happened to our daughter Saba . . . Fluvax is still available for some incompetent doctors and nurses to administer.
"How can anyone have confidence now in the Australian Health Department when obviously nothing has been learnt from this monumental tragedy?"
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has repeatedly told doctors they can only use the flu vaccine brands Agrippal, Fluarix, Influvac and Vaxigrip for children aged between six months and five years.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton called yesterday for "big red labels" to be put on Fluvax boxes, alerting doctors not to use it for children.
He said in his Brisbane clinic to prevent errors doctors required another GP or a nurse to sign off before any vaccine was given.
The Health Department ruled out any action against the immunisation providers.
Source: The Australian