Vaccine must be available
HEALTH Minister Greg Hunt is happy because GlaxoSmithKline, the big drug manufacturer, has acquiesced to his pressure and is bringing in 200,000 extra doses of Bexsero, the meningococcal B vaccine.
There has been an acute shortage of the vaccine in Australia because GSK has failed to supply the market properly.
Mr Hunt has repeatedly told us he would do everything possible to ensure the shortage was addressed. But Mr Hunt is missing our point.
The reason there’s a shortage is because the federal Government has failed to put Bexsero on the free vaccine schedule.
GSK is a highly effective (some might say ruthless) business organisation that invests billions in research and needs to recoup its investments.
It knows perfectly well that until the vaccine is on the schedule, its sales in Australia are limited to those people who can afford the $300-odd necessary to vaccinate each child.
Not many parents can afford that, so it’s better business for GSK to supply the markets where sales are guaranteed because the vaccine is on the taxpayer-funded schedule for all children.
As we reveal today, not even the Giribaldi family, whose daughter Bernadette has already lost both legs to meningococcal B, will be shelling out for three more doses of the vaccine for their three unaffected children, because it is simply too expensive.
We are advocating for all the parents who have no chance of ever affording this vaccine.
Those parents deserve to sleep at night in the knowledge their children are not going to die or be disabled because of meningococcal B.
Mr Hunt’s office has repeatedly tried to tell us the Minister does not have the power to put a vaccine on the schedule, and that that’s an arms-length decision made by the medical experts at the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
Well, that’s interesting. Tell that to every health minister who has, in the past, boasted to this newspaper about their achievements in getting a particular drug for cancer listed on the free schedule.
This is politics. Australians elect governments to make the big, bold decisions that bureaucrats are not game to make. A vaccine exists. It is safe. Mr Hunt must put it on the schedule.