By Annie Guest
ELIZABETH JACKSON: There’s renewed controversy surrounding influenza vaccines today with some studies showing that people immunised against the seasonal flu might have been at greater risk during the swine flu outbreak.
An infectious diseases expert professor Peter Collignon has called for a review of Australia’s flu vaccine policy in light of this new research.
But the Federal Government has defended its vaccination program.
Annie Guest reports.
ANNIE GUEST: Immunisation can be a sensitive issue particularly when things go wrong such as children getting sick after the swine flu vaccine.
Now that sensitivity has been heightened by new research according to professor Peter Collignon.
PETER COLLIGNON: Well what was a bit surprising when we looked at some of the data from Canada and Hong Kong in the last year is that people who had been vaccinated in 2008 with the seasonal or ordinary vaccine seemed to have twice the risk of getting swine flu compared to the people who hadn’t received that vaccine.
ANNIE GUEST: And the Australian National University microbiologist says it’s the opposite of what vaccines should do.
He highlights another finding about the benefits for healthy people of being exposed to some illnesses.
PETER COLLIGNON: Some interesting data has become available which suggests that if you get immunised with the seasonal vaccine you get less broad protection than if you get a natural infection.
And it’s particularly relevant for children because of a condition they call original antigenic sin which actually basically means if you get infected with a natural virus that gives you not only protection against that virus but similar viruses or even in fact quite different flu viruses in the next year.
We may be perversely setting ourselves up that if something really new and nasty comes along that people who have been vaccinated may in fact be more susceptible compared to getting this natural infection.