2017 Influenza vaccine safety confirmed by Australian-first vaccine safety surveillance system

25 May 2017


AusVaxSafety introduces active safety surveillance of vaccines across the country to provide real-time monitoring, and boost confidence in immunisation


May 19, 2017: 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 nine in ten parents (88 per cent) are unsure about the safety of the flu vaccine. (source: https://www.childhealthpoll.org.au/polls/flu-vaccination-perspectives-of-australian-parents/). 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 (www.ausvaxsafety.org.au), 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 five years. The Australian government recommends everyone from six 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 three to four 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 Westmead in Sydney.



About AusVaxSafety: Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, AusVaxSafety is a unique system that uses patient feedback to investigate vaccine safety. All adverse events can be reported, including those not necessarily caused by the vaccine. If any serious or unexpected adverse events arise, effective and rapid follow-up of the patient can occur, either via their own doctor or immunisation specialists.


Hospitals, General Practitioners, Aboriginal Medical Services, and immunisation clinics around the country are now able to install SmartVax and Vaxtracker which are free and use automated SMS technology to send patients or parents a brief survey following vaccination. The surveillance system also retrieves data from STARSS, a study evaluating the use of different follow-up methods.


Data is received on all vaccines given in the clinics; however, AusVaxSafety surveillance is currently focusing analysis on the following vaccines and age groups:

•             Influenza vaccine in all ages during April-October

•             Pertussis (whooping cough)-containing booster vaccines in children

•             Zoster (shingles) vaccine in adults, particularly those aged 70-79 years


Analysis of all de-identified patient responses occurs frequently and is reviewed by AusVaxSafety vaccine experts, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Department of Health each week. As well as the influenza vaccine showing a good profile, zoster and pertussis vaccines are tracking as expected, with a low rate of side effects. 

For more information on AusVaxSafety, please visit www.ausvaxsafety.org.au


About NCIRS: The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (NCIRS) is the leading organisation in Australia working in research to support evidence-based policy development for evaluation of the National Immunisation Program, and surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases, vaccine coverage and vaccine safety. This work is funded through agreements with the Australian Government Department of Health. www.ncirs.edu.au


Media contact:
Ms Leonie Leonard 02 9845 3364

Public Relations Department, the Children's Hospital at Westmead

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