Reported adverse reactions not reflecting the true incidence of side effects

November 2, 2009

side effectsACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher fears Canberrans are becoming complacent about swine flu.  She suggests it may be “because it’s a new vaccine perhaps people have concerns about it,”

She reassures us “nationally there’s only been 15 reports of adverse events and they’ve all been very mild.”

Only fifteen very mild reports?  Really?

If I happen to know two people in Australia who’ve had adverse reactions (the other two were from Canada), one of whom was hospitalised, you can pretty much guarantee that 15 reports is nowhere near an accurate representation of the real incidence of side effects, nor is it accurately reflecting the severity of those reactions.

This is hardly surprising as the government’s Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee (ADRAC) admits that less than 10% of reactions are currently reported through their system.  Other estimates suggest that figure is closer to 1%.  With 22 million people in the country the odds are certainly stacked against me knowing 13.33% of the individuals who’ve had reactions, which tends to suggest that even the 1% is highly inflated.

So I’m sending out a plea:  if you take the swine-flu vaccine (or any drug for that matter) and you have a reaction please take the time to make a report.  And if happen to know anyone else who has a reaction please encourage them to do likewise.  Only when people start reporting their side effects will we have any hope of seeing the real incidence of adverse reactions reflected in the official figures.

If you live in Australia details on how to make a report can be found at The Therapeutic Goods Association website. You might also like to make a report to The Australian Vaccination Network who keep an independent register of adverse reactions.  If you live overseas you can refer to the relevant drug regulatory body.

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