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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (5.11 p.m.) —The expert committee, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation—ATAGI—has made a number of recommendations over the last 12 months.

They are very significant and there are four factors that the experts and the Australian government need to consider. The first is IPV—inactivated polio vaccine—to replace oral polio vaccine. That is a product of Aventis Pasteur and GSK. Also there is Prevnar, the conjugate pneumococcal vaccine for all infants from Wyeth. There is varicella, a universal chickenpox vaccine for children aged 18 months, and there is Pneumovax vaccine for people over 65, which is a CSL product. They are all recommended by ATAGI.

The Australian government will spend $21.23 million over the next four years on free pneumococcal vaccine for at risk children, which will provide free vaccine for over 91,000 children. Contradictory to the previous speaker's comments, the Australian government has targeted the most at risk children and is continuing to examine the program for its further extension. The medical factors that indicate a high incidence or high severity of pneumococcal infection are: congenital immune deficiency, immune suppressant therapy, compromised splenic function, HIV infection, renal failure, Down syndrome, cardiac diseases, all premature infants with chronic lung disease, all infants born at less than 28 weeks gestation, cystic fibrosis, insulin dependent diabetes, proven and presumptive cerebrospinal fluid leak, intracranial shunts and cochlear implants. All of those factors predispose patients to the prospect of pneumococcal disease.

Wyeth, which is the producer of the Prevnar vaccine, has been very active in promoting the significance of pneumococcal disease, and I want to pay tribute to the Wyeth team for bringing it to the attention of the parliament. However, there is a worldwide shortage of this vaccine at the moment, and even if the Commonwealth were to make a decision it is not at all certain that Australian children would benefit. But Wyeth has confirmed that it will continue to meet orders for the supply of Prevnar for the Australian government's $21.23 million national childhood pneumococcal vaccination program.

My colleague the member for Moore, a learned medical practitioner, wishes me to indicate his strong support for the immunisation program, and I think most members would agree with him. There are four recommendations up at once and the process of government is one of competing priorities. The government's considered approach is to provide support for those most in need.

In conclusion, I point out to the House that, unlike the partly political theme picked up by some of the members opposite, the Australian government has increased expenditure on vaccine elevenfold since it has come to office. That is a wonderful record, of which we are proud. We have increased it from just over $13 million to an estimated $143 million this year. That is a massive investment in preventative medicine that this government has made. We are proud of this increase and will not accept criticism for things we are proud of. We know there is still more to be done and the government is taking the steps to put the recommendations of ATAGI, the Australian expert body, into practice. All people should have the maximum possible protection, whether from polio, chickenpox or pneumococcal disease, available to them under the best possible conditions.

Author: Hon Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 22nd March 2004
Release Date: 22 Mar 2004


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