14 March 2019 | NewsNew Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) website for parents and carers now liveRead the full article
NEWS - 22 January 2019
AusVaxSafety completes pertussis booster vaccine safety active surveillance
AusVaxSafety completed pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccine safety active surveillance this month after nearly three years of monthly active surveillance. No safety signal was identified in children receiving DTPa at 18 months or DTPa-IPV at 4 years, with data contributed by over 55,000 participating parents/carers. Vaccine safety results are available on the AusVaxSafety website.
NEWSLETTER - 18 December 2018
The most recent AusVaxSafety newsletter has been published, and can be accessed here.
NEWS - 11 December 2018
Vaccine safety in Australia AusVaxSafety summary report 2016-17
The Vaccine safety in Australia AusVaxSafety summary report 2016-17 is now available on the Department of Health website. The report shows how parents and carers responded to an SMS about their child's health a few days after their vaccination, and includes infographics providing a visual representation of the results at each schedule point in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) in Australia in 2016-17. Read the AusVaxSafety summary report 2016-17 here.
Using automated SmartVax or Vaxtracker software, AusVaxSafety conducts active, participant-based surveillance via automated SMS for the early detection, analysis and investigation of potential vaccine safety signals at sentinel immunisation provider sites nationwide. Current vaccine safety results are available on the AusVaxSafety website.
NEWS - 9 November 2018
Completion of active surveillance of zoster vaccine safety
In the context of no safety signals identified during two years of surveillance in over 18,000 participants, AusVaxSafety concluded active surveillance of zoster vaccine safety in November 2018.
NEWS - 22 October 2018Vaccine side effects: Australia's world-first surveillance system
Smartvax, a key AusVaxSafety collaborator, provides participant reports of adverse events following immunisation to the AusVaxSafety active vaccine safety surveillance system coordinated by NCIRS to monitor vaccine safety and reassure parents and providers. AusVaxSafety's surveillance system will soon use SmartVax data to monitor every vaccine on the National Immunisation Program (NIP). The Sydney Morning Herald article can be accessed here.
PUBLICATION - 22 October 2018AusVaxSafety’s 2017 influenza vaccine safety surveillance results published
AusVaxSafety’s active influenza vaccine safety surveillance confirmed the safety of influenza vaccines administered in Australia in 2017. Results have recently been published in the journal BMJ Open [Pillsbury AJ, Glover C, Jacoby P, et al. Active surveillance of 2017 seasonal influenza vaccine safety: an observational cohort study of individuals aged 6 months and older in Australia].
Surveillance in 2017 included 73,892 participants aged 6 months and older from across Australia who were vaccinated at one of 194 sentinel immunisation clinics and responded to an SMS/email survey sent via the SmartVax, Vaxtracker, or STARSS surveillance tools about adverse events experienced in the days following influenza vaccination.
Rates of reported adverse events were low and within expected ranges for all age groups and pregnant women. The most commonly reported adverse event following influenza immunisation was injection site pain (1.7%). Other commonly reported events included injection site redness, swelling, and other non-serious events such as tiredness or headache. Adverse event rates were similar for Fluarix Tetra (GlaxoSmithKline) and FluQuadri (Sanofi-Aventis), the two most commonly received influenza vaccine brands in the population surveyed in 2017. Rates of medical attendance following vaccination – which is used as a proxy for serious adverse events – were low (0.4%). Colleagues at the Telethon Kids Institute employed statistical analyses to monitor medical attendance rates each week. No safety issues were identified in 2017.
AusVaxSafety has reported on and confirmed the safety of seasonal influenza vaccines since 2014. This active, participant-based surveillance system is a valuable tool for post-marketing monitoring of vaccine safety for the early detection of potential issues, especially for annually changing influenza vaccines. AusVaxSafety provides important, locally-derived data which ensure confidence in the safety of vaccines in use in Australia.
NEWSLETTER - 8 October 2018
CONFERENCE - 8 October 2018 AusVaxSafety showcased at the 32nd International Papillomavirus Conference
The AusVaxSafety poster showcased at the 32nd International Papillomavirus Conference in Sydney on 6 October 2018, is available here.
MEDIA RELEASE - 04 October 2018
AusVaxSafety reports world-first active vaccine safety data for new HPV vaccine
Australia’s active vaccine safety surveillance system collects over 8, 000 SMS-based survey responses from parents reporting Gardasil9® is safe
Data from AusVaxSafety confirm the safety of new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil9® in Australian adolescents. Over 8,000 parents of vaccinated 11–14 year olds have provided feedback to an SMS-based survey of safety after the jab. Gardasil9® vaccine was added to the National Immunisation Program this year for adolescent males and females and prevents HPV-related cancers, such as cervical, and head and neck cancer.
Using automated Smartvax software, which sends an SMS survey to parents 3 days after vaccination to ask about any adverse events, the AusVaxSafety program has been monitoring and reporting to the Australian Government Department of Health on Gardasil9® since February 2018. No vaccine safety concerns have been identified to date; the most common and expected findings have been reports of injection site reactions in 3.8% of reports.
This world-first active vaccine safety data for the new HPV vaccine will be showcased at the 32nd International Papillomavirus Conference in Sydney this week.
Professor, Discipline of Child & Adolescent Health, University of Sydney and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Director, Kristine Macartney, commented, “We are very excited to add to the global body of research regarding the safety of Gardasil9®, and hope this information will support the wider uptake of this life-saving vaccine.”
HPV is a common virus that can lead to different types of cancer, including cancer of the cervix, head and neck and other anogenital areas. The new vaccine protects against 9 different types of HPV (5 more types than the previous vaccine) and is recommended for routine vaccination at around 12–13 years of age. The vaccine is delivered mainly through free, school-based immunisation programs, with some doses also given by GPs. AusVaxSafety monitoring of Gardasil9 vaccine is been undertaken in schools and GPs across Australia.
More HPV vaccine safety surveillance results, as well as results for other vaccines such as those protecting against whooping cough, shingles and influenza, are available on the AusVaxSafety website. In 2018, AusVaxSafety collected data confirming the safety of influenza vaccines in more than 167,000 children and adults surveyed.
NEWS - 26 September 2018 PhD Scholarship opportunity
A unique opportunity is available for an outstanding PhD scholar to undertake research into the field of vaccine safety social science to contribute to AusVaxSafety; Australia’s world-leading active vaccine safety system. The scholar will conduct mixed-methods research to evaluate the acceptability and usefulness of AusVaxSafety’s active vaccine safety surveillance, as well as the impact of AusVaxSafety on consumer and immunisation provider confidence in vaccines, vaccine safety, and immunisation programs.
The revised closing date is 9 October 2018 and more information can be accessed here.
NEWS - 14 September 2018SmartVax reaches 1 million vaccination encounters
Congratulations to SmartVax for reaching a milestone of 1 million vaccination encounters. SmartVax currently has over 260 surveillance sites across Australia and provides over 97% of all active surveillance data analysed and reported on by AusVaxSafety. The 1 million vaccination encounter milestone achieved on 28 August 2018 highlights the significant contribution that SmartVax is making to vaccine safety surveillance in Australia, and is a testament to the hard work of the SmartVax team: Dr Alan Leeb, Mr Ian Peters and Ms Karin Orlemann.
SEMINAR SERIES - 26 September 2018
NCIRS Seminar/Webinar: Vaccine safety and adverse events following immunisation: a practical approach.
Associate Professor Nigel Crawford, Director of SAEFVIC and Dr Lucy Deng a General Paediatrician and Staff-Specialist at NCIRS gave an overview of common expected and rarer serious adverse reactions following immunisation, the management and reporting of these adverse events.
The central component was to support immunisation providers in discussions with patients/parents who have concerns about safety and adverse events. Real-life case study scenarios were presented by immunisation specialist service clinicians. The format was deliberately open and interactive, designed to provide a practical tool-kit and learn more about the referral services available around Australia.
The video from the webinar is now available to view on the NCIRS website.
NEWS AND EVENTS - 20 August
2018 AusVaxSafety Annual meetings
This year NCIRS hosted two face-to-face meetings with key collaborators in Sydney, including members from SmartVax, Vaxtracker and the AusVaxSafety Expert Leadership Group, Evaluation Working Group and Communication Working Group. The meetings were very productive and gave collaborators an opportunity to reflect on significant progress made, and contribute to discussions regarding future AusVaxSafety plans and strategic direction.
MEDIA RELEASE - 04 July 2018 Active surveillance confirms 2018 influenza vaccines safetyAusVaxSafety, Australia’s active vaccine safety surveillance system, collects over 140,000 SMS responses from influenza vaccine recipients and parents
New data released by AusVaxSafety show the 2018 Australian influenza vaccines are safe, with over 140,000 adults and children who have been vaccinated and participated in surveillance this year experiencing no unexpected or unusual reactions. With flu season upon us, AusVaxSafety confirms that the vaccines available this year are safe for use in individuals of all ages.
In 2018, two additional higher-immunogenicity trivalent influenza vaccines (Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad) are available free of charge via the National Immunisation Program for people aged ≥65 years. Injection site reactions, such as swelling, redness and pain, are slightly more common after vaccination with these higher-immunogenicity vaccines; however, clinical studies show that the majority of reactions are mild or moderate. This has also been confirmed by many Australians who have contributed to AusVaxSafety data this year. Influenza vaccine active surveillance results, as well as vaccine safety results for other vaccines, are available on the AusVaxSafety website www.ausvaxsafety.org.au.
Professor Kristine Macartney, Director NCIRS and paediatric infectious disease consultant, says, “Influenza can be a serious disease in people of all ages. It is the leading cause of hospitalisation due to a vaccine-preventable disease in Australia. After a record influenza season in 2017, demand for influenza vaccination in Australia has been very high this year, including demand for the new enhanced vaccines for older people under the National Immunisation Program. AusVaxSafety is a unique surveillance system that actively monitors the safety of each year’s new vaccines, to ensure they are performing as safely as we expect them to.”
Dr Alan Leeb, a General Practitioner from Western Australia, who co-created the Smartvax automated system that works seamlessly at immunisation provider sites to send vaccine surveys to vaccine recipients and parents, notes, “We are delighted to see such positive and encouraging feedback from hundreds of thousands of Australians; our patients who come for a vaccine really appreciate that we follow up with them.” He also added, “Importantly, with the roll out of free flu vaccines for children aged between 6 months and under five years in most states and territories this year, we have not identified any vaccine safety issues.”
Led by the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS) and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, AusVaxSafety is a world-leading national active vaccine safety surveillance system that monitors vaccine safety. AusVaxSafety facilitates early detection of potential vaccine safety issues, using de-identified information reported directly from people receiving the vaccines (or their parent or carer). Responses are solicited via an SMS sent using the automated SmartVax or Vaxtrackersoftware around 3 days after vaccination from more than 250 sentinel sites across Australia. Analysis of all de-identified patient responses occurs frequently and is reviewed by vaccine experts as well as the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Department of Health.
NEWS - 5 June 2018PHAA 16th National Immunisation Conference
The 16thPublic Health Association of Australia (PHAA) National Immunisation Conference was held in Adelaide from 5-7 June 2018.
AusVaxSafety had the opportunity to showcase their work, outputs and initiatives as well as resources for immunisation professionals. AusVaxSafety and their consortiums contributed by presenting on Vaccine Safety. The presentations can be downloaded by clicking on the links below.
Analysis of adverse events following receipt of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccineHelen Quinn, Catherine Glover, Alexis Pillsbury, Chloé Damon, Kristine Macartney on behalf of the AusVaxSafety consortium
AusVaxsafety goes to school-Monitoring 9-valent HPV vaccine safety via school-based immunisationAlexis Pillsbury, Helen Quinn, Catherine Glover, Chloe Damon, Alan Leeb and Kristine Macartney on behalf of the AusVaxSafety Consortium
Building AusVaxSafety - Australia’s active vaccine safety surveillance systemChloé Damon, Helen Quinn, Alexis Pillsbury, Catherine Glover and Kristine Macartney on behalf of the AusVaxSafety Consortium
Profiles of adverse events across the infant National Immunisation Program scheduleCatherine Glover, Helen Quinn, Alexis Pillsbury, Chloe Damon, Alan Leeb and Kristine Macartney on behalf of the AusVaxSafety Consortium
RADIO - 5 June 2018 Influenza study: Reactions to flu vaccinations being tracked by Australian health researchers
Professor Kristine Macartney, the director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, spoke to ABC Radio Canberra's Dan Bourchier and Adam Shirley about the latest flu vaccine research being presented at the 16th Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) National Immunisation Conference in Adelaide.
The interview is available here: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/canberra/programs/breakfast/flu-vaccination-reactions-being-tracked/9835168
WORKSHOP - 9 May 2018
The Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) for The Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) was held on the Gold Coast in May 2018. AEFI-CAN & AusVaxSafety ran an Adult Immunisation Satellite Workshop entitled ‘Vaccination Is Not Just For Kids’ What Infectious Disease Physicians Need To Know.
The presentations are available here: http://www.mvec.vic.edu.au/asid-annual-scientific-meeting-2018/
SEMINAR SERIES - 23 April 2018
NCIRS Seminar Series 2018 Active surveillance for immunisation programs: It’s the future
This NCIRS Seminar Series focused on world-leading active surveillance systems, including AusVaxSafety, and provided insights into how this data complements traditional passive surveillance, informs decision making for immunisation programs and assists in both countries meeting international commitments for vaccine safety monitoring and disease reporting.
The presentations are available here: http://www.ncirs.edu.au/news-and-events/ncirs-seminar-series/#sem2
NEWS - 21 March 2018AusVaxSafety adds Gardasil®9 to active surveillance
From January 2018, people aged around 12 to 14 years are being offered the new HPV vaccine (Gardasil®9) in a 2-dose schedule through school-based programs under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
AusVaxSafety, Australia’s real-time active vaccine safety surveillance system, will monitor Gardasil®9 safety to accompany this change to the NIP. AusVaxSafety is led by NCIRS and predominantly uses the SmartVax survey tool to gather feedback from recently vaccinated Australians. AusVaxSafety data are provided to state and territory health departments, and the Australian Government Department of Health to inform vaccine safety in Australia.
Active surveillance of the new HPV vaccine will provide valuable safety data desired by consumers, parents and the general public. Inclusion of school-based vaccination under AusVaxSafety further demonstrates the flexibility of the system to adapt to new vaccine safety surveillance needs in Australia.
AusVaxSafety currently actively monitors pertussis vaccine in children, zoster vaccine in older adults and all-age influenza vaccines. The results can be viewed on the AusVaxSafety website.
NEWS - 20 December 2017
AusVaxSafety exceeds 200 SmartVax sites nationwide
AusVaxSafety active vaccine safety surveillance data are provided by SmartVax, Vaxtracker and STARSS. No safety signals have been identified through active surveillance to date. AusVaxSafety active surveillance data continue to be updated regularly on the website.
Influenza: From 1 April 2017 to 3 September 2017, 102,663 individuals aged 6 months and older were enrolled for influenza vaccine surveillance. With an over 70% response rate, 73,560 participants consistently replied that any events after vaccination were generally mild and within expected ranges.
Zoster: As of 3 December 2017, a total of 10,739 persons aged 70–79 years have participated in zoster surveillance since 1 November 2016, yielding a response rate of 68%.
Pertussis: As of 10 December 2017, 29,592 children aged 12 months–<7 years have participated in pertussis surveillance since 14 March 2016, yielding a response rate of 72.4%.
As of 4 December 2017, there are 201 SmartVax sites nationwide. A live map can now be accessed on the SmartVax website.
NEWS - 1 December 2017
AEFI-CAN launches new national clinical database
The Adverse Event Following Immunisation-Clinical Assessment Network (AEFI-CAN) is excited to announce the launch of its national clinical database: www.aefican.org.au.
AEFI-CAN is a formal collaboration between state- and territory-based specialist immunisation clinics, and includes representatives from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), with funding provided by the Department Health via AusVaxSafety, coordinated by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS).
This database is part of national vaccine safety collaboration, led by SAEFVIC (at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), with development and IT support from ChordWizard Systems (Stephen Clarke).
The database has both an AEFI reporting and a clinical follow-up arm, and is designed to help capture uniform data throughout Australia.
As a national network, AEFI-CAN works collaboratively to clinically assess and manage individual patients following serious or unexpected AEFI. AEFI-CAN provides the important link between surveillance and clinical assessment and management. As such, AEFI-CAN can assist in determining patient outcomes and support investigation of possible safety signals in a real-time integrated way.
The database is currently being used in Victoria, with work underway to provide opportunities for all state and territory specialist vaccine safety clinics to adopt the database.
PUBLICATION - 09 November 2017
Active SMS-based influenza vaccine safety surveillance in Australian Children
Alexis Pillsbury, Helen Quinn, Patrick Cashman, Alan Leeb, Kristine Maccartney, on behalf of the AuxVaxSafety consortium
Australia’s novel, active surveillance system, AusVaxSafety, monitors the post-market safety of vaccines in near real time. This paper analysed cumulative surveillance data for children aged 6 months to 4 years who received seasonal influenza vaccine in 2015 and/or 2016 to determine: adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) rates by vaccine brand, age and concomitant vaccine administration.
7402 children were included in the analysis and no safety signals or excess of adverse events were detected.
Access the publication abstract
MEDIA RELEASE - 3 October 2017
New AusVaxSafety data reinforces vaccination safety
Innovative new AusVaxSafety data confirms the 2017 influenza vaccines to be safe. No vaccine safety concerns were identified in approximately 74,000 adults and children vaccinated since April this year.
In the past five months over 102,000 people who have received the influenza vaccine across Australia have been sent a follow-up survey 3 days after vaccination to monitor vaccine reaction rates in real-time. With over 70% response rates, consumers have consistently replied that any effects after vaccination were generally mild and within expected ranges. This data, largely provided by SmartVax SMS surveys, reinforces the safety of the currently approved influenza vaccines. Only 6.6% had any potential reaction and an even smaller 0.4% sought attention from a healthcare provider in the days after vaccination.
Deputy Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and paediatric infectious disease consultant Associate Professor, Kristine Macartney says, “We know the importance of vaccination and since implementing this program as an Australian first, we’ve received ongoing positive results that confirm and assure the safety of vaccines.”
“The AusVaxSafety results showcase how Australia takes a lead in feeding back information to the rest of the world in regard to influenza vaccination safety. Countries now entering winter in the Northern Hemisphere will be particularly interested in these results as they are starting to use 2017/18 vaccines containing the same strains shown to be safe in Australia,” she said.
AusVaxSafety is a national active vaccine safety surveillance system that monitors vaccine safety across more than 200 ‘sentinel’ sites. These include general practices (GPs), Aboriginal medical services, immunisation clinics and hospital clinics. Led by the NCIRS, this world-leading system actively monitors the safety of a number of vaccines and aims to increase public confidence in immunisation.
CONFERENCE - 28 June 2017
AusVaxSafety at the Communicable Diseases Control (CDC) Conference 2017
The Communicable Diseases Control (CDC) Conference 2017 was held in Melbourne from 26 to 28 June 2017, and brought together researchers, experts, policy makers and students in the field of public health to discuss the Conference theme, ‘Infectious Diseases: a global challenge’. It was an exciting opportunity to showcase some of the work being undertaken by AusVaxSafety collaborators in the field of vaccine safety.
AusVaxSafety presentations included:
In addition to AusVaxSafety specific presentations, members of the AusVaxSafety Consortium presented the following:
Thank you to the Communicable Diseases Network Australia, the Public Health Laboratory Network and the Public Health Association of Australia for convening such an engaging and diverse conference.
Members of AusVaxSafety at the CDC Conference (Left to right: Alexis Pilbury (NCIRS), Anastasia Phillips (USYD), Gabriella Lincoln (STARSS), Helen Quinn (NCIRS), Kristine Macartney (NCIRS) & Alan Leeb (SmartVax)
PUBLICATION - 3 June 2017
Participant-centred active surveillance of adverse events following immunisation: a narrative review
International Health 2017;9:164-76
Cashman P, Macartney K, Khandaker G, King C, Gold M, Durrheim DN.
This paper reviews Australian and overseas studies of adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) surveillance systems that involve active contact with individuals following vaccination, and describe how these approaches improve our understanding of vaccine safety. The authors conclude that "Public health authorities require near real-time sensitive post-marketing AEFI surveillance systems to ensure public safety and public confidence in vaccines. Passive surveillance is the cornerstone of vaccine safety but has limitations of under reporting and imprecise risk estimates. Active surveillance can offer more sensitive surveillance, timely signal detection and provides phase IV (i.e., post-marketing safety) data for regulators and public health authorities. By having active surveillance, which directly surveys the consumers in near real time and makes the results publically available, active surveillance systems address transparency concerns and contributes to public confidence in the whole immunisation programme. A number of exploratory systems utilising e-technology have been developed and their potential for scaling up and application in developing settings deserves further investigation." Access the full text publication here.
MEDIA RELEASE - 19 May 2017
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.
15 May 2017 - NSW Doctor article - Advances in vaccination safety
Australia’s landmark system to monitor adverse reactions is increasing patients’ confidence in the safety of vaccinesClick here to read the article
AusVaxSafety, which actively monitors the safety of vaccines using SMS-feedback and email from recently vaccinated children and adults, is helping to ensure public confidence in taking up vaccination.
AusVaxSafety is a collaborative initiative led by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.
Currently established in 130 sentinel immunisation providers across all states and territories, AusVaxSafety will expand to more than 200 sites in 2017. General practices, hospital and community-based clinics, and Aboriginal Medical Services are participant partners.
The idea for the monitoring system was sparked in 2010, after a number of children suffered fever and febrile convulsions after receiving one brand of the flu vaccine (Fluvax and Fluvax Junior). There have been no safety concerns with the use of other brands of flu vaccine in children.
Despite withdrawing that brand of vaccine, many parents lost confidence in the flu vaccination. Research conducted by Professor Christopher Blyth of the Telethon Kids Institute revealed that in Western Australia, vaccine uptake was substantially reduced in the following 2 years.
These reactions prompted different groups across the country to develop a way to monitor adverse reactions to vaccinations, particularly in children.
Traditionally, it’s been left up to parents (or patients themselves) to report adverse reactions to a vaccination to their GP. This passive reporting system then relied on GPs to make a report to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
In light of the events of 2010, several medical professionals identified the need for a more proactive reporting system that recorded how vaccination was performing across the population in real-time.
Dr Alan Leeb, a GP in Western Australia, set up a system called SmartVax that uses text messaging and clinical data extracted from existing medical practice management software to actively contact patients who have received a vaccination, to enquire whether they had experienced any adverse reactions.
Meanwhile Professor Mike Gold set up another active monitoring system in South Australia, and a similar system called Vaxtracker was established in NSW by Professor David Durrheim.
Recognising the value in monitoring vaccine safety, the Australian Government called for tenders to conduct surveillance of influenza vaccination in children aged under 5 for the next 3 years.
NCIRS won the tender. Now, using SmartVax as the main data collection tool in general practice, AusVaxSafety receives and analyses de-identified data from all states and territories and reports this to the Department of Health and TGA. AusVaxSafety currently monitors the safety of influenza vaccine in all ages (during the influenza season), pertussis vaccines in toddlers and young children, and zoster vaccine in adults.
SmartVax is a software program, designed to actively monitor the safety of all vaccines given in general practice and vaccination clinics via SMS and smartphone technology. When a practice uses SmartVax, an automated text message is sent to patients 3 days after their vaccination asking whether they experienced a reaction. Patients who respond ‘yes’ are sent a question about the severity of the reaction, and a survey. Many states and territories offer specialist vaccine adverse events clinics for patients who experience a reaction. Patients who experience a significant reaction can be referred by their GP to specialist vaccine adverse events clinics. For more information, contact the NSW Immunisation Specialist Service (NSWISS) on 1800 679 477.
SmartVax is completely free for practices. It is fully automated, and integrates with existing patient management systems. To get your practice involved, contact SmartVax via the website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the NCIRS, “Patients respond extremely well to SmartVax and participation rates are high. As well as informing national vaccine safety monitoring, the use of SmartVax in practices helps GPs with their duty of care following vaccination.”
NCIRS provides reports regularly to the Department of Health, TGA and vaccine safety experts and clinicians throughout Australia. Any safety concerns are reviewed by the NCIRS Expert Leadership Group, and there are mechanisms in place to follow-up safety concerns through more detailed data analysis and clinical follow-up of patients.
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