The Turnbull Government is targeting parents across the country, particularly in Adelaide, with a very powerful message around the need to vaccinate their children with a new campaign rolling out today. I caught up a few minutes ago with the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Greg Hunt, thank you for joining us today.
First of all, the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says, quote ‘ the federal Liberals have ignored calls for the meningococcal B vaccine to be added to the PBS so we’re stepping in under re-elected Labor, South Australian children aged two and under will be provided free meningococcal B vaccinations, saving families up to $500 for each child’. What do you say to that?
I say that’s false, and I say that because there’s no application before the Federal Government for listing of meningococcal B. We’ve just listed a new, what’s called quadrivalent or four-strain vaccine, A, C, W and Y, but there’s no application before the federal Government. It would be illegal for a government to do it without a recommendation of the medical professionals, and the medical professionals are there for a reason. To protect, to ensure and to give confidence that every vaccine is utterly safe.
Now, in South Australia at the moment, as the Premier knows, there’s a trial being conducted by GSK for the meningococcal B vaccine, precisely as part of the process of making it safe. So we’re expecting a submission, without which it would be illegal, immoral, improper, and unsafe to act at the federal level.
And of all people, Jay Weatherill, after two pieces of news, the disaster, the catastrophe and the scandal of Oakden, and now the revelation, and I think this is really what the response is. That on his own watch and his own patch, Adelaide City, we have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. It’s a very irresponsible call for him to ask the federal Government to breach the law, to breach the medical protocols that do things which would simply not be acceptable. It feels like it’s an irresponsible and an utterly reactive response to what’s been revealed in recent days.
I want to talk to you about immunisation rates in this state, particularly the very low, one, Adelaide city, the other Adelaide Hills. What are we talking about here?
So what we see is that in Adelaide City, it’s got the lowest two-year-old vaccination rates in the country, and the second lowest of vaccination rates of five-year-olds. Adelaide Hills is one of the lowest. So they’re 77.8 per cent for Adelaide City for five-year-olds, and 88.1 per cent for Adelaide Hills.
What that means is they’re well below the desired goal of 95 per cent coverage. The country as a whole, 94 per cent for one-year-olds, 91 per cent for two-year-olds, 93.5 per cent for five-year-olds. So the country is doing well, but we have to keep doing better.
But there are pockets which we’ll now be targeting with information campaigns that say these vaccines have been tested, they’ve been approved by medical professionals, they save lives of children, they protect the lives of other children, and therefore we need to deal with any doubt that sometimes develops in particular areas.
But the best thing the South Australian Government could do is help with the information campaign on their own doorstep, literally outside of the doors of Parliament House.
Tell me, are you waving a big stick at those parents who, for whatever reason, don’t want to vaccinate?
Well it is voluntary, so parents have choice as they should, but if they want to send their children to childcare, there’s the No Jab No Play recommendations that we’ve been working on with the states. And if they want to receive welfare there’s No Jab No Pay, which means if they haven’t complied with the law and they don’t have a valid medical exemption, then they’ll have reductions in the welfare payments that they would otherwise be receiving.
And this has helped bring up immunisation rates around the country. It’s absolutely the right thing to do, but having gone along with the Prime Minister, met a mum who had a little baby at the pre-vaccination age and that baby was from the New South Wales North Coast, another area with low vaccination rates, contracted whooping cough from unvaccinated children.
An agonising death for a one-month-old baby, just utterly tragic. And that reminds us why our children live longer, we have lower mortality rates, because of vaccinations. It’s a deep, profound public health and moral duty to lift the vaccination rate.
Greg, thank you for that. All the best. Greg Hunt.