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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Meningococcal Vaccine


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Tags: Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I was confused when I saw this as the topic for the matter of public importance this morning. My initial response was concern but I decided to hold my assessment of what Labor was going to say in this matter until I had heard the words. I am in total support of what the minister has said. I was expecting to hear some evidence Labor has found that would refute the evidence of the Public Health staff who have been working under an immense amount of pressure to deliver an outcome that is as safe as possible.

If you are talking about improving processes, if the Labor Party has some information about how to improve the processes, you should have tabled that today. I would have expected you to have presented that because you would have to be living under a rock in Tasmania if you did not realise that meningococcal W is serious; people have become sick from it and there are options.

Everybody is encouraging people in that age group of six weeks to 20 years to go to their GP for a free vaccination as quickly as they possibly can.

If there are ideas about how to improve that, it should be put here on the table. If you have evidence that the evidence the Public Health epidemiologists are using to make their assessment about the right places, the right times and the right strains to vaccinate is incorrect, it should be tabled as a matter of urgency.

Members interjecting.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Deputy Speaker, as somebody who has worked in epidemiology, I can say it is incredibly sad that more people are not taking up this opportunity. I encourage the minister, if he has not already done so, to find the data about specific areas, specific age groups and specific demographics that have a low uptake because they should be targeted. If you have the evidence that targeting is not happening, you should have tabled that.

Effectively, Labor is attacking science. It is really important that we do not attack science.

Will Labor support the Greens when we introduce a bill to bring in pill testing trials? I expect you will because people are dying right now because there are no pill testing trials. You did not support us last time. When we bring that in, and we will, we will expect Labor to support it. We will expect the Government to support it, too, because it is about the science. It is about doing the right thing.

More people have died in the last week from the lack of pill testing than we have seen in recent times, and more will die. Seven hundred people's lives were damaged because they received pills of a low quality and this is something we can fix. There is not a lot we can fix but there are some things we can.

I encourage every person in this Chamber to do anything they can do to push down on the diseases these different strains are causing. There is always more that can be done. If there is a problem with the Government's processes, they should be pointed out. We should not be introducing any element of alarm in such as serious situation because there is enough there. My daughter was vaccinated; we were encouraged by the school to go early and we did. GPs are working around the clock, outside of their working hours. They are staying back to do clinics.

There are signs on the side of the road -

Ms Standen - Only about 10 per cent of those immunised are aged 15 to 20.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am glad you are an expert on this matter, Ms Standen, because we need to look at where the cases are occurring. They are mostly occurring in the south, which is why the emphasis is there. It is not surprising there is a lower uptake in the north and north-west. I am not defending that. We should work harder to make sure we have a comprehensive uptake across the whole state. It is grave mistake to start attacking something that is a serious issue for the people who have been affected. We do not want to create any element of panic. We need to do everything we can.

Like so many things in life, stuff happens. Meningococcal B occurs widely across Australia.

At the moment, the Tasmanian rate is not higher than it is in the rest of Australia. The rate of meningococcal W is higher and the staff have acted, GPs have acted and they are working hard. It is a terrible thing that has happened. When terrible things happen, we should all pull together, not create alarm and do what we can to support the staff working very hard across the health system.