Flu vaccine conversation
After all the huffing and puffing over whether or not to vaccinate against epidemic influenza at the start of the winter respiratory virus season, we appear to have got away almost unscathed. Critics of vaccination will, no doubt, rub their hands with glee and claim that it all goes to show that we don’t need the vaccine. Those of us who’ve had to deal with the severe end of the disease spectrum are left wondering how such a small piece of microbial real estate can still cause fatalities when the bulk of the population gets off scot free. Maybe we needed to get the controversy out of our system, air our natural leanings to skepticism or whatever other camouflage we need to use for not liking the annual flu shot.
Cause of vaccine reaction?
- The discussion previously known as a controversy has morphed into a more considered conversation on attitudes to flu vaccination and the specific reasons for the high level of adverse reactions seen in children. Kelly and colleagues highlight the importance of public confidence in population vaccination programmes, and how that trust is more quickly lost than earned (1). In their analysis of last year’s adverse flu vaccine events, they propose that the vaccine reactions may have been due to use of deoxycholate as a virus splitting agent in the brand of flu vaccine associated with many of last year’s adverse events.
Low vaccine uptake by hospital workers
- Reducing the risk of these reactions is obviously a priority if public confidence in flu vaccination is to be rebuilt. Reliance on personal attitudes towards a public vaccine programme is obviously a flimsy basis for progress when the general public have a low opinion of vaccination in the first place. Withdrawal of the offending vaccine was an important start, but a much deeper understanding of the connection between vaccination and claimed adverse effects is needed if health professionals are to be relied upon to support future vaccination programmes. This rather grim conclusion is the logical consequence of the low rates of flu vaccination reported in another study in the same edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (2). Health care workers generally don’t like getting their annual flu shots. The Micrognome suspects that some hospital doctors suffer from delusions of immortality, but recognises that others harbour concerns about Guillain-Barre syndrome following flu vaccination. This study concludes that vaccination may need to be mandatory or a matter of policy in order to increase health care worker uptake.
While the Micrognome dislikes the annual inconvenience and discomfort of flu vaccination, he recognises a need as a responsible citizen to man the hospital barricades against the advancing hordes of influenza virus each winter. In that respect, each shot is another brick in the wall.
Let the conversation continue.
- Kelly HA, Skowronski DM, de Serres G, Effler PV. Adverse events associated with 2010 CSL and other inactivated influenza vaccines. Med J Austral 2011; 195: 318-320.
- Seale H, MacIntyre CA. Seasonal influenza vaccination in Australian hospital health care workers: a review. Med J Austral 2011; 195: 336-338.