31 May 2019

Paediatrician receives AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award

Perth doctor and paediatrician Dr Alan Leeb who developed SmartVax, a program for monitoring vaccine safety after the Fluvax crisis in 2010, was this week recognised for his contribution to the medical profession of more than 30 years.

Dr Alan Leeb holding his AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award
Dr Alan Leeb holding his AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award

SmartVax was built with significant support from the Department of Health.

In April 2010, flu vaccines for children were suspended over a spike in convulsions and other serious adverse events after the Fluvax vaccine was administered.

Dr Leeb was shocked to learn that dozens of children were being vaccinated at his practice during the day, then presenting to hospital at night with fever and seizures. Yet he and his colleagues were completely unaware. 

In response, Dr Leeb teamed up with a software developer to create SmartVax, a program to monitor vaccine safety among patients in real time. It allowed health care providers to monitor and respond to adverse events following immunisation via automated text messages.

It was later rolled out all over Australia and was responsible for restoring public and medical practitioner confidence in the influenza vaccine.

In presenting the award, AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said Dr Leeb had demonstrated ongoing commitment to quality medical care for more than three decades.

“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 Bartone said.

“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.”

Dr Leeb’s contribution has been recognised by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners with the Peter Mudge prize, for research most likely to significantly influence daily general practice.

His program has now been extended with SmartStartAllergy, which aims to help doctors better understand food allergies in infants.