Vaccine kills toddlers' appetite


TODDLERS may not eat for days after receiving the new meningococcal vaccine,
nurses are warning parents.

Nearly six million young people aged one to 19 will be offered the free
vaccination against meningococcal C infection over the next four years.

The $300 million program began in this month after the Federal Government
decided to provide the vaccine free.

While parents may be expecting their children to suffer a sore arm at the
injection site and perhaps a slight fever they are now being warned a loss
of appetite is also a side effect.

Baby clinic nurses are warning mothers of the side effect so they do not
worry when a child refuses to eat.

The side effect known as "anorexia" was experienced by up to 33 per cent of
children in a study published in MIMS, an independent manual on drugs and
their side effects.

The federal Health Department says the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory
Council has received four reports of a temporary loss of appetite associated
with the new vaccine.

A spokesman for the department said it had to be made "painfully clear" that
this loss of appetite was not to be confused with the serious condition
known as anorexia nervosa.

"The loss of appetite is temporary, in just about all cases it does not
require any medical attention and its duration is a couple of hours and not
more than 24," he said.

"The discomfort of a temporary loss of appetite is far outweighed by the
seriousness and potentially life threatening circumstances of a child who
has contracted meningococcal disease because they have been unvaccinated,"
he said.

The disease is caused by a bacteria and its early symptoms include high
temperature, extreme headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, drowsiness,
aversion to light and a purple rash.

It is difficult to diagnose because it begins like many harmless infections
however it can quickly lead to death.

Of 213 cases in NSW last year, 19 people died.

The vaccine protects only against the C strain.

A spokeswoman for drug company Wyeth, one of the major manufacturers of the
vaccine, said parents should not be concerned about the loss of appetite

It was only temporary and was part of a range of minor reactions that
children might experience from a range of vaccinations, she said.

An ACT mother told The Daily Telegraph a baby health clinic nurse had also
suggested that the 12-month dose of the vaccine be administered at a
separate visit to other vaccines.

Children aged 12 months already require two needles to cover immunisation
against measles, mumps, rubella and HIB at this age.

Nurses were not comfortable giving young children a third needle for
meningococcal at the same time because they often did not have enough muscle
to have two injections in the one arm, the mother said.

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