By Natasha Bita, Consumer Editor
JUST hours after a doctor jabbed Sharron Coppin’s children with a world-first flu vaccine, her three-year-old daughter Alivia turned purple.
As Coppin raced the shivering Alivia to a Perth hospital emergency ward, her husband called an ambulance for their one-year-old twins, Byron and Lateesha, who had begun convulsing and vomiting at home.
Little did the panicked parents realise that the flu shot, provided free by West Australian health authorities, had never been tested in children through clinical trials.
“No one warned us this could happen,” Coppin says of the febrile convulsions that afflicted one in every 110 Australian children injected with Fluvax, which combines three strains of seasonal and swine flu.
“I just took the doctor’s word. And the doctor obviously trusted that the government had done all the testing. If I had known it hadn’t been tested, I would never have let my kids be used as guinea pigs. I was trying to protect them, not put them in harm’s way.”
Coppin is flabbergasted to discover some of the federal Department of Health and Ageing’s top immunisation advisers have links with the drug company that created the vaccine that landed her kids in hospital.
“You’d think there’d be something to say that’s a conflict of interest,” she says.
The Perth mother is not the only one to raise eyebrows over the relationships between Australia’s health authorities and the pharmaceutical industry. Some independent researchers are questioning the system in which scientists affiliated with drug companies can also advise the government on matters that affect the pharmaceutical sector.