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Patterson's vaccine program leaves Australian families unprotected.

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Shadow Minister for Health


Changes to the National Immunisation Program announced today by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, will leave Australian families with a bill of more than $500 to fully immunise each child.

Only yesterday, the National Health and Medical Research Council endorsed the new edition of the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule, recommending several new vaccines including those against meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, polio and chicken pox.

All these vaccines have been evaluated by the Government’s own expert committee. They have been found to be safe, effective and cost-effective with reference to the burden of disease they will protect against.

While the Government has already begun delivering the meningococcal vaccine free of charge, they have flatly refused to fund the rest. This is the first time the Government has failed to fund the complete Schedule under the National Immunisation Program.

Minor amendments to fund the pneumococcal vaccine for at-risk children are a token effort at best, when we know that every Australian child should be protected.

Labor condemns the Government’s penny-pinching approach, which will leave confused parents looking at two lists. Their GP will tell them that all the vaccines on the Schedule are worthwhile, but only some will be funded under the National Immunisation Program. The bill to make up the difference will be beyond the reach of many families.

Labor endorses comments from the Australian Medical Association that the Government’s failure to fund the vaccines will penalise parents who want to keep their kids fully immunised. This can only damage Australia’s recent efforts to lift immunisation rates in the community.

Labor has consistently called for the Government to follow the advice of its own expert committee, and fund these vaccines for all Australian kids.

Senator Patterson should explain to low-income families why the protection of their children is not a priority for her Government.

For further information contact:

Julia Gillard on 0417 361 637 Miranda Cumpston on 0411 108 907 19 September 2003