Fri, 05/19/2017 | News

2017 Influenza vaccine safety confirmed by Australian-first vaccine safety surveillance system

AusVaxSafety introduces active safety surveillance of vaccines across the country to provide real-time monitoring and boost confidence in immunisation.

New data released by the AusVaxSafety program have shown the 2017 influenza vaccines to be safe, with no significant, unexpected or unusual reactions experienced by the close to 40,000 adults and children who have been vaccinated and participated in the program to date. It is now flu season and this system tells us the vaccines available this year are safe.

The results of a recent poll of Australian parents found that almost 9 in 10 parents (88 per cent) are unsure about the safety of the flu vaccine. Our data, straight from parents whose children have been vaccinated, tells us the 2017 influenza vaccines are safe. For the first time in Australia, AusVaxSafety, a ground-breaking national vaccine surveillance system, is now monitoring, in real-time, the effects of vaccines on Australians of all ages in over 150 ‘sentinel’ sites across the country. These include general practices (GPs), Aboriginal Medical Services, immunisation clinics and hospital clinics. Led by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), this cutting-edge system actively monitors vaccine safety and aims to increase public confidence in immunisation.

The AusVaxSafety system utilises de-identified information provided directly by the people who receive the vaccines (or their parent or carer). The majority of responses are sought via an SMS sent from the patient’s immunisation clinic or GP using the automated SmartVax or Vaxtracker software at around 3 days after a vaccination. This form of active vaccine safety surveillance has not been implemented on this scale in Australia or internationally before.

The Deputy Director of NCIRS and paediatric infectious disease consultant, Associate Professor Kristine Macartney, has said, “Influenza is a serious disease in people of all ages and is the leading cause of hospitalisation due to a vaccine-preventable disease in Australian children under 5 years. The Australian government recommends everyone from 6 months old be vaccinated against influenza.”

“This robust vaccine safety surveillance mechanism is an active way of making sure vaccines perform as safely as we expect them to, and also serves as an early warning system for any unexpected outcomes. We are delighted to see such positive and encouraging feedback about AusVaxSafety. On average, we have a 70% response rate within 3 to 4 days of sending an SMS which is fantastic to see”, she added.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases can impact us all, resulting in numerous doctor's visits, hospitalisations and premature deaths. With AusVaxSafety now established, the community can feel confident that an active system is in place to monitor vaccines”, said Karen Orr, Clinical Nurse Consultant specialising in immunisation and paediatrics at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney.