Vac­cine must be avail­able

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION -

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.

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