Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview regarding the announcement of the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program: 11 June 2004.



Download PDFDownload PDF

Media Interview

The Hon Tony Abbott MHR Minister for Health and Ageing

11 June 2004

Transcript: Announcement of the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program, Doorstop Interview

E&OE

TONY ABBOTT:

I'm here this morning to say that the government has now concluded its negotiations with Wyeth, the manufacturer of the childhood pneumococcal vaccine, and there will be a universal vaccination program against pneumococcal for toddlers at birth and for people over sixty-five. The universal program will start at the beginning of next year which is as soon as we can get the vaccine and the logistics rolled out for that to happen. There'll also be a catch-up program for children under two.

So, this is in recognition of the recommendation of the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation backed up by the National Health and Medical Research Council late last year. It's good news for the general public and it maintains the government's very strong record on immunisation. Back in the early '90s, childhood immunisation rates had fallen to fifty per cent. They're now back up well over ninety per cent. Back in 1996, we were only spending eight million dollars a year on vaccines, now the government's spending a hundred and forty-three million dollars a year and obviously that's going to be very substantially boosted by this new universal childhood pneumococcal vaccination program.

REPORTER:

How much will it cost the government this year?

ABBOTT:

The first two years of the program will cost a hundred and seventy-eight million dollars. We've been able to negotiate a reduced price of eighty-one dollars a shot as opposed to eighty-three dollars a shot which the company was offering a few weeks ago.

We've also been able to get a dramatically reduced price for the catch-up program of just over seventy-one dollars a shot. So the new vaccines … the vaccines for newborns and the catch-up program will cost us a hundred and seventy-eight million dollars over the first two years and then it'll be fifty million dollars a year, or thereabouts, into the future.

REPORTER:

How many children do you estimate this will cover?

ABBOTT:

Well, every newborn from the first of January next year will have access to the program and all the toddlers, that's to say people who … kids who were born after the first of January last year, will be part of the catch-up program. Something like two point four million Australians will be vaccinated against pneumococcal in the course of 2005.

REPORTER:

Why do you set those age limits?

ABBOTT:

Because that's the advice we've been given by ATAGI, that newborns should be vaccinated in the first six months of life against pneumococcal and that people over sixty-five who are also at very significant risk from pneumococcal should also be vaccinated. So newborns will be vaccinated, people over sixty-five will be on the national immunisation program and toddlers under two will be on the catch-up program.

REPORTER:

So parents with kids who suffer ear infections, for example, over the age of two, what will it cost them to be immunised?

ABBOTT:

Well, if people want to be vaccinated outside of the program they'll do it in the normal way. They'll have to pay in the ordinary way.

REPORTER:

And how much will that be?

ABBOTT:

Well, that's a matter for the private market to determine.

REPORTER:

You've said previously that the reason you've delayed doing this is because of the money, to try and find a better price. Is this two dollar saving worth the delay?

ABBOTT:

No, there were … the reason why we originally delayed was because we were told that it would be impossible to access supplies of the vaccine until October this year which would mean that it would be impossible to start a universal program until the beginning of next year. That was the advice we were given in January this year.

After some serious discussions with the manufacturer, that is still the position, so the fact is the government has put this universal program into place as early as we could, given the advice we got late last year from the National Health and Medical Research Council, that we should go ahead with the universal program.

REPORTER:

This is playing catch-up with Mark Latham's health policy?

ABBOTT:

No, as I said, the government began discussions with Wyeth late last year. Certainly, those discussions were accelerated once the Health and Medical Research Council backed up the ATAGI recommendation. We were advised in January … I was advised in January by my officials who were doing the discussion with the company that the earliest we could get access to the vaccination was October. Then in early May, the company told us that it was prepared to talk about a lower price and discussions went on from there.

REPORTER:

On another issue, Mr Abbott, Mr Garrett's decision to enter federal parliament, how do react to that?

ABBOTT:

Look, it's a great ladder of opportunity for Peter Garrett but Mr Latham seems to have kicked away the ladder of opportunity for the Labor Party members of Kingsford Smith. So I think it's … there’s a star track for Peter Garrett and there’s a wilderness for ordinary members of the Labor Party.

REPORTER:

Doesn’t really differ though to what happened in Wentworth.

ABBOTT:

It differs completely from what happened in Wentworth because Malcolm Turnbull - who I hasten to add was a member of the Liberal Party for some years, and who as far as I know has always voted in Australian elections - went through the ordinary pre-selection process. Yes, there were lots of people in the party who were helping him, but he had to go through the ordinary democratic processes of the

Liberal Party. And that’s the key difference between the way the Liberal Party treats its own and the way the Labor party treats its own.

REPORTER:

But Peter Garrett isn't replacing a sitting member.

ABBOTT:

No, but there are a lot of people out there in Kingsford Smith who have worked very hard for the Labor Party over the years, and I can understand why they feel pretty ripped off by what has happened.

I think this is really an issue for Mark Latham. There’s no doubt that Peter Garrett, over the years, has been a pretty good rock star, but this is now politics. Mark Latham is the leader of the Labor Party, and I think what he has done here is hard to reconcile with what he has previously said about the need for authenticity in politics and the need for political parties to be true to their roots, true to their values.

Okay? Thanks very much.

ENDS

Minister Abbott's Media Release regarding the announcement of the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program is available at http://www.health.gov.au/mediarel/yr2004/ta/abb078.htm