Call to extend vaccine subsidies

Call to extend vaccine subsidies

A PUSH to provide more free immunisations could see another vaccine added to the federal government’s subsidy list as early as next month.

Under the recently released, five-year National Immunisation Strategy, endorsed by commonwealth, state and territory governments, coverage rates are set to be improved by breaking down any financial or geographic impediments to immunisation.

According to the strategy, that will include governments developing “an agreed position on the provision of free catch-up immunisation schedules”.

A report to be released in Canberra today by National Senior Australia, with the support of vaccine manufacturer bioCSL, calls for an extension of the National Immunisation Program.

National guidelines recommend older Australians be vaccinated against four diseases – pneumococcal, flu, tetanus and shingles – yet only pneumococcal and flu are funded on the NIP.

According to an NSA survey, four out of five seniors believe they are entitled to government funded vaccines and, pointedly, more than 90 per cent would consider a free vaccination against shingles.

Almost all adults over 30 have been exposed to the chickenpox virus, meaning most of the population is at risk of developing shingles, with older people hit hardest. A Department of Health spokeswoman yesterday noted bioCSL’s application to have its shingles vaccine listed on the NIP was set to be considered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee next month.

The PBAC makes recommendations based on clinical and cost effectiveness, and the spokeswoman said “to date, an application for funding tetanus vaccine for adults under the NIP has not been recommended”.

Associate Professor Michael Woodward, a geriatrician with Austin Health, said high immunisation rates would allow people to remain healthy for longer. “Preventive health measures to help protect the health of older Australians will only become increasingly important.”

Source: The Australian

Comment: We are keeping up with the vaccination argument, mainly from the political and institutional angles presently, as this is going to be an ongoing and potentially explosive debate at many levels.

Our general position is to try and appreciate the role of vaccination and the changing patterns of infectious disease. An analogy could be the discussion around climate change; our current collective view could be quite restricted and prejudiced.