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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8491


Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (12:34): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) increased immunisation of children, which is essential for protecting them against diseases including pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, meningococcal and measles now saves the lives of 2 to 3 million children per year globally but, nevertheless, 1 million children globally still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases;

(b) in 2017, 85 per cent of children globally received the full course of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine, a key measure of vaccine coverage, however, this left nearly 20 million children not covered by this vaccine;

(c) globally, 85 per cent of children receive the polio vaccine, however, gaps in polio vaccine coverage allow some children to contract the disease, with 15 cases in 2018 so far in Afghanistan and Pakistan;

(d) Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to which Australia has been a consistent contributor, has supported the vaccination of more than 640 million children, and saved an estimated 9 million lives; and

(e) in December 2018, Gavi will hold a mid-term review to assess what changes to its strategy are needed to achieve increased and equitable access to vaccines;

(2) recognises that:

(a) Australia co-sponsored a resolution at the 2017 World Health Assembly to accelerate access to vaccines, calling for the extension of immunisation services beyond infancy, increasing domestic financing, and strengthening international cooperation to achieve global vaccination goals; and

(b) current funding by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), to which Australia contributes, is due to decline significantly as polio nears eradication—this funding covers one fifth of the World Health Organisation's costs, and accounts for a high proportion of the health and vaccination workforce in several countries; and

(3) calls on the Government to:

(a) participate in planning to accelerate progress in making vaccines available to all children, including through the Gavi mid-term review; and

(b) work with countries now receiving polio support and multilateral agencies to ensure that transition from GPEI funding results in increased resources for other health and vaccination programs.

This is a motion that will save millions of lives, and I can say that without hesitation. Immunisation and vaccination have saved many millions of lives in the 20th and 21st centuries and will continue to do so provided we are vigilant. In this day and age, there are still between 1½ and two million children every year who die from vaccine-preventable disease. Many more suffer from the long-term sequelae of vaccine-preventable disease. It is an issue that, in a developed country like Australia, has bipartisan support, and I thank the member for Bennelong in particular for seconding the motion and also the member for Batman and the member for Lindsay for speaking in support of this motion.

I am a member of the first generation to have population-wide polio vaccination. I can still remember children a little older than me who had caught polio and were just ahead of me at school, suffering the sequelae of polio. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of which Australia is a long-term member, has markedly improved vaccine coverage over the last decade or more in the developing world, and it is in countries where children are most at risk and most vulnerable that Gavi has done its best work. It's vaccinated over 600 million children so far and aims to vaccinate over 300 million children over the five years between 2016 and 2020.

One challenge that Gavi faces as it rolls out vaccination in countries that are developing is that, as countries' per capita income increases, Gavi gradually withdraws its funding, and it's found that there is a slip in the number of children being immunised in those countries that are transitioning from Gavi funding. So they need to be ever vigilant in that area, and they are working with the World Bank to see if funding can be obtained to cover the shortfall in countries as their per capita income increases.

Vaccine-preventable disease, to me, is a real issue. I've seen many of the diseases that are now prevented by vaccines, such as measles, mumps and chickenpox. I worked at the children's hospital in 1977-78 in Sydney, when we had the last huge measles outbreak in Australia. I saw some children die and many suffer the long-term consequences of severe measles. I have seen many children with mumps and chickenpox, all of which are now vaccine preventable. I've seen children with congenital rubella. Unfortunately, even in Australia, we're still seeing children with congenital rubella in Australia, although thankfully very rarely now with widespread vaccination. These children are often left severely handicapped, with blindness, deafness, intellectual disability, cardiac disease and seizures. Luckily we don't see them. We still see the occasional child with Haemophilus influenzae and pneumococcal meningitis. Very rarely, we see children with epiglottitis, which is a severe airway obstruction due to Haemophilus influenzae, which is completely vaccine preventable. I have even seen people with polio and diphtheria in my working career. So these are diseases that still have the potential to recur, and we must be ever vigilant. In New Guinea, recently they've had 13 cases of polio, and this could have been prevented by population vaccination.

I want to make the point today that immunisation is a victim of its own success, because these diseases are out of the common knowledge. Many of the general practitioners, and even many of the younger paediatricians working in Australia these days, have never seen many of these diseases, including a disease that was very common when I was training, which is measles. We just don't see those diseases anymore. It's out of people's consciousness, and it's very easy for people to forget about the importance of immunisation. It's also very important we make sure that we promote immunisation programs through Gavi and others in our near neighbours, particularly in developing countries, because what occurs in developing countries comes to Australia in this era of rapid transport. I commend this motion to the House. I thank the members for their support.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Is there a seconder for the motion?