‘False’ claims Govt is ignoring vaccine calls: Hunt

The Federal Government has launched a campaign to encourage childhood vaccination, as the Health Minister hits back at claims it’s ignoring calls for more vaccines

Areas of low vaccination rates in one, two and five-year-olds will be micro-targeted in every state and territory under the second phase of the “Get the facts about immunisation” campaign.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says that while overall rates are good, with over 93% of five-year-old children fully vaccinated, there are areas where the rate is unacceptably low.

“It is these areas of low coverage which pose risks to the community, especially to people who can’t be vaccinated, like newborns and those with medical reasons,” Mr Hunt said.

“The science is in and the medical experts’ advice is absolute – vaccinations save lives and protect lives and they are an essential part of a healthy society.

“I have no time for the false and reckless claims made around vaccination by some in our community and I will continue call out their dangerous claims with the scientific facts. 

“This campaign will help parents access evidence based information to support their decision making about childhood vaccinations.”

The second phase of the $5.5 million education campaign will run for six weeks through online video, social media and online search, as well as on screens in health clinics and GP surgeries.

The campaign will target parents of children aged five years and under and pregnant women and their partners. 

Mr Hunt also denied comments by the South Australian premier Jay Weatherill, who has said that “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 are set to be provided free meningococcal B vaccinations.

Mr Hunt told 5AA’s Leon Byner that the claims by Mr Weatherill were “false”.

“I say that because there’s no application before the Federal Government for listing of meningococcal B,” he said.

“We’ve just listed a new… 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.”

He pointed out that GSK is conducting a trial for the meningococcal B vaccine as part of the safety process.

“So we’re expecting a submission, without which it would be illegal, immoral, improper, and unsafe to act at the federal level,” he said.

He also attacked Mr Weatherill over low childhood immunisation rates “on his own patch, Adelaide City”.

“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,” he said. “Adelaide Hills is one of the lowest. So they’re 77.8% for Adelaide City for five-year-olds, and 88.1% for Adelaide Hills. 

“What that means is they’re well below the desired goal of 95% coverage. The country as a whole, 94% for one-year-olds, 91% for two-year-olds, 93.5% for five-year-olds. So the country is doing well, but we have to keep doing better.”

These two areas are two of the “pockets” which will be micro-targeted by the second phase of the Government’s campaign.

He said vaccination was voluntary and parents should have a choice about whether to immunise their children.

“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.”

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