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Old 09-30-2009, 05:29 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2009
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Default "SWINE FLU" vaccine rollout biggest in Australian history

TONY EASTLEY: Alison Caldwell reporting ABC(Australian Broadcasting Cooperation)

TONY EASTLEY: A leading influenza expert has accused one of his peers of raising undue concerns about the swine flu vaccine. Today Australia embarks on the biggest vaccination roll out in its history.

The Federal Government says those most at risk of coming down with swine flu should be among the first to receive the vaccine. But differences have broken out between influenza experts, as Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: According to the most recent figures, 178 Australians died after contracting swine flu this winter. There have been 36,500 confirmed cases.

From today, Australians aged 10 years and over will be able to receive a vaccine to protect themselves from swine flu, for free, from their GP.

EXCERPT FROM ADVERTISEMENT: Even if you are fit and well, you could still be at risk or infect more vulnerable people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Australia is one of the first countries in the world to roll out a mass vaccination plan. But medical opinions differ on whether this is the best way to combat another possible wave of the virus.

Peter Collignon is the ANU's Professor of Infectious Diseases.

PETER COLLIGNON: Well there's nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, but part of the caution is to make sure we don't do harm with any vaccine program we do as well.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says, as will all vaccines, there are risks, and therefore Australia should wait to see what happens with the vaccine in the northern hemisphere.

PETER COLLIGNON: For the general population that are in otherwise good health, my belief is that we should wait and see what happens in the northern hemisphere, and then maybe have a single dose vaccine, all strains that we need for the next winter.

Now the problem is if we railed out a vaccine to 20 million people, we will get some side effects from that. Now hopefully they will be minor.

ALISON CALDWELL: The last time we saw a mass immunisation program for swine flu was in America in the 1970s and there were some problems, weren't there, associated with that?

PETER COLLIGNON: They unexpectedly found that about one in 100,000 people got this rare syndrome called Guillain-Barre where you get a form of paralysis. We also know that a reasonable large proportion of people, about 50 per cent, do get side effects from the vaccine. They're mild to moderate but they are actually similar to the influenza itself.

ALAN HAMPSON: Yeah just wait and see if you get the flu and become severely ill and possibly die, that wouldn't be my philosophy at all. If you wait for a potential infection that could occur during summer then I think you're doing yourself a disservice.

ALISON CALDWELL: Professor Alan Hampson is the Chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group. He says to wait would be to risk the health of thousands of Australians.

ALAN HAMPSON: I think there are good reasons for going ahead with the vaccination program at this stage. Just watching what is happening at the moment, we see that the beginnings of new outbreaks in the US at this stage.

Now that's exceedingly early. If we were to wait before giving the vaccine, we could be completely caught off guard and we could have a new wave of infection in Australia before we have time to vaccinate people.

ALISON CALDWELL: What about the possible side effects, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, are you saying that's just fear mongering?

ALAN HAMPSON: I think it's raising undue concerns in the minds of the public who don't have all the facts in front of them.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Federal Health Department says links between influenza vaccines and Guillain-Barre syndrome are very rare, about one in a million.
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