A Perth GP who developed a surveillance program to actively monitor vaccine safety in real time is the recipient of the 2019 AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award.
AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, announced Dr Alan Leeb as the winner at the AMA National Conference today.
“For more than three decades, Dr Alan Leeb has demonstrated his ongoing commitment to quality medical care and improving public health, particularly in the field of vaccination,” Dr Bartone said.
“Perhaps his most important achievement is developing the SmartVax tool, now used nationally, to deliver near real time, active adverse event information to general practices and hospital immunisation clinics, and to prospectively monitor the safety of all vaccines given in Australia.
“Dr Leeb was motivated by the events of April 2010, when the use of seasonal trivalent influenza vaccine in children was abruptly suspended following an unanticipated spike in febrile convulsions and other adverse events after the use of Fluvax.
“The suspension decreased public confidence in vaccinations and, more pointedly, caused a loss of confidence by some doctors in childhood influenza vaccination.
“Subsequently, there was a quick fall in the proportion of children fully vaccinated for influenza – from 45 per cent in 2009 to just 7 per cent in 2011.
“High immunisation rates are critical to protecting the nation’s health and, as we have seen overseas, any decrease in immunisation rates can lead to an increase in the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.
“Vaccinations and immunisation are key policy and medical issues, particularly at a time when a fringe group of highly dangerous anti-vaxxers is spreading false and potentially lethal misinformation.
“Dr Leeb was determined to never see another situation where the systems in place were unable to detect potential vaccine safety threats in a timely manner.
“Partnering with a software developer, Ian Peters, he developed SmartVax, a tool to actively monitor adverse events following immunisation (AEFI).
“SmartVax uses SMS and smartphone technology, and is a world leader in delivering active adverse event surveillance.
“The program has actively monitored almost two million vaccine antigens over 1.3 million immunisation encounters, and is in use at almost 300 practices and clinics across Australia.
“Dr Leeb’s significant contribution to developing and advancing vaccine safety surveillance in Australia has been recognised by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners with the Peter Mudge Prize for the research most likely to significantly influence daily general practice.
“His work through SmartVax and a subsequent program, SmartStartAllergy, has enabled health care providers to actively monitor and respond to adverse events following immunisation across all age groups, and allergic reactions to food in infants.
“Importantly, in an age where false and dangerous disinformation is being spread by unqualified individuals, the work of Dr Leeb and his partners has helped provide the evidence-based reassurance to the public and health professionals about the safety of vaccinations and the National Immunisation Program.
“Dr Alan Leeb is certainly a very worthy recipient of the 2019 AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award.”