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Australia Tells Doctors to Stop Flu Shot for Children

Australia’s government said children aged five years and younger shouldn’t be given CSL Ltd.’s seasonal flu vaccine after reports of a spike in fever and convulsions among kids in Western Australia.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia’s medicines regulator, is investigating and has asked CSL to provide samples to be tested for abnormalities, the nation’s Chief Medical Officer Jim Bishop said today. CSL is working with regulators on the probe, said Jo Lynch, an external spokeswoman for the Melbourne-based company.

“This is a precautionary measure while the matter is being urgently investigated,” Bishop said in a statement. There don’t appear to be similar implications for CSL’s swine flu vaccine, which is safe, he said.

Twenty-two children became ill with seizures because of high fever within 12 hours of having their seasonal flu shots and were taken to Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital, the West Australian newspaper reported on its Web site. Bishop’s statement didn’t provide more details about the children’s conditions.

CSL said in a statement it has stopped the distribution of seasonal flu vaccine for children in Australia.

The company is the Southern Hemisphere’s only flu vaccine producer. Swine flu, or H1N1, is responsible for the first influenza pandemic in 41 years and the World Health Organization has recommended flu vaccine makers include H1N1 as one of three strains in this year’s seasonal flu shot.

CSL, also the world’s second-biggest maker of blood plasma products, fell 7.3 percent to close at A$33.94 in Sydney trading, the biggest decline since July 22, 2008. The stock dropped after CSL’s larger rival Baxter International Inc. cut its 2010 earnings forecast yesterday, citing costs from the U.S. health-care reform.

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