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Vaccines may have increased swine flu risk

There is renewed controversy surrounding influenza vaccines, with some studies showing people immunised against the seasonal flu might have been at greater risk during the swine flu outbreak.

Infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon has called for a review of Australia’s flu vaccine policy in light of the new research, but the Federal Government has defended its vaccination program.

Immunisation can be a sensitive issue, particularly when it comes to adverse effects in children.

Professor Collignon from the Australian National University (ANU) says the new research will only heighten sensitivities.

“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 have 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,” he said.

ANU microbiologists say it is the opposite of what vaccines should do.

Professor Collignon says the findings of the study also highlight the benefits for healthy people who are exposed to some illnesses.

“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,” he said.

“It is particularly relevant for children because it is a condition they call original antigenic sin, which 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.

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