Flu shots linked to asthma attacks

By Michael Bradley
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

Vaccinating asthmatic children against influenza is unlikely to protect them
from attacks and may even worsen their condition, say researchers who have
found asthma-related emergency department visits are significantly more
likely among children who have received a flu shot.

The US study comes a week after Australian authorities said they would
consider whether local immunisation recommendations should be brought into
line with America's.

Asthmatic children in the US are told to use the vaccine but from September
the recommendation will be extended to all children aged between six months
and two years. In Australia, influenza immunisation is not recommended for
all children; however, a universal program is being considered by the
Federal Government's vaccine advisory panel.

Professor David Isaacs, a specialist in immunology and infectious diseases
at the Children's Hospital at Westmead and the chairman of the Australian
Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation's committee on influenza, said: "In
the United States they say children with asthma should be given a vaccine
against the flu because getting the flu could make their asthma worse, but
the evidence supporting this idea is far from brilliant."

Professor Isaacs said previous studies had failed to show different rates of
asthma attack between groups of children given either the vaccine or a

"People seem to assume the vaccine will be good [for asthmatics] but the
evidence does not show that it is," he said.

"In fact, there are lots of studies now suggesting it does not offer much
benefit at all."

The American researchers compared two groups of 400 asthmatic children. One
group received the vaccine. Those who were vaccinated were found to be
almost twice as likely to seek assistance at an emergency department because
of their asthma.

However, one specialist says doctors and parents should not read too much
into the research. A medical virologist at Prince of Wales Hospital,
Associate Professor Bill Rawlinson, said the findings might only reflect the
higher use of the vaccine among children with severe asthma.

"If you are a more severe asthmatic, you are more likely to get the
vaccine," he said.

[Financial tip: invest in inhaler futures and in Ritalin futures. The CDC's
cranking up its "inject thimerosal via flu shots" campaign.]