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Monday, 22 March 2004
Page: 26755

Ms O'BYRNE (1:57 PM) —The government's refusal to fund the pneumococcal vaccine, as recommended by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, means that families are not only being forced to find between $400 and $600 to pay for the vaccine but are also having to wait up to four months to access the dwindling supply of the vaccine. The maker of the vaccine has confirmed it would have honoured a government contract for the vaccine but could not guarantee supply for a fluctuating private market. Not funding the vaccine is leaving babies exposed to a disease that kills and seriously disables more Australians than meningococcal C disease, for which the government does fund a vaccine.

There were over 80 cases of pneumococcal in Tasmania last year and its incidence appears to be on the rise. There is a 10 per cent to 30 per cent fatality rate associated with the disease. Last weekend, Senator Guy Barnett assured the Tasmanian community that the government was still looking at funding the vaccine and that it would be part of budget considerations. He said that it was obviously a funding issue and would need to be considered in the budget context. It is not just a funding issue and it is not good enough to just consider the issue. This is the first time that a recommended vaccine has not been funded. The government must put the health of our children first and fund the vaccines recommended by the advisory group.