CSL shares plunge on flu vax safety concerns

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Shares of Australia's CSL plunged earlier this week after word that the influenza shot Fluvax is potentially dangerous for children and could be linked to hundreds of adverse reactions in that country. And experts are now saying that exposure to last year's swine flu outbreak may have predisposed children to the severe reactions they now are exhibiting in response to influenza vaccinations, according to the Syndney Morning Herald.

As a result, Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, has advised immunization providers to stop giving seasonal flu vaccine to children age 5 years and younger until a cause is established. "This is a precautionary measure while the matter is being urgently investigated by health experts and the Therapeutic Goods Administration," Professor Bishop says in a statement.

"The TGA has contacted CSL Ltd to confirm which batches of vaccine were used ... and is obtaining samples of the vaccine to test in its laboratories to determine if there are any abnormalities in the batches of vaccine used," Bishop adds. Darryl Maher, CSL's medical and research director, says the company is cooperating: "As a further precautionary measure... CSL has taken the action to withhold further distribution of its pediatric influenza vaccine nationally to reduce the risk of inadvertent administration in this age group."

Ian Barr from the World Health Organization's influenza center says the cases involved several different batches of the vaccine.

The blood products and vaccines maker's share price fell 4.2 percent, but Deutsche Bank analyst David Low does not expect the issue to have a material impact on CSL's long-term share price. "This is only going to have a material impact on CSL's share price or profitability if it becomes an issue in the northern hemisphere, and CSL and the authorities have ample time before the manufacture of northern hemisphere flu vaccine will begin," Low is quoted in a report in The Australian.

As a precautionary measure, the New Zealand Ministry of Health has recommended that health professionals not use the Fluvax brand of seasonal flu shot when vaccinating children under the age of 5, according to a statement from the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

- see the CSL reaction to the reports
- here's the New Zealand Ministry's report
- check out the release from the Department of Health and Ageing
- read The Australian's report
- here's more from the Sydney Morning Herald
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see the ABC article

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Australia readies world's first mass swine flu campaign