Injections are more important than ever. Picture: iStock
Injections are more important than ever. Picture: iStock

Vaccinating our kids shouldn’t be this hard

IT cost about $600, a frustrating 30 or so phone calls to pharmacies and several trips to the doctor to get our two children immunised against meningococcal B, a deadly disease that can snatch a seemingly healthy child in less than 24 hours.

What the hell is wrong with Australia?

Why are poor people being denied the right to keep their children safe? Why are we tolerating a situation where only relatively rich, relatively well-organised people like me can afford a vaccine to protect against this modern plague?

Today we report the heartbreaking story of Donald Peach, 20 months, who was play-wrestling with his Dad on Friday afternoon and dead on Saturday morning.

He woke up from a nap vomiting and feverish - 39C, which is alarming but not usually a cause for immediate panic - and his parents Amy and Donald took him to their local hospital in the Hunter Valley.

Managing vaccines shouldn’t be this hard. Picture: iStock
Managing vaccines shouldn’t be this hard. Picture: iStock

He responded to Panadol and seemed to improve. The hospital sent him home. Late that night Amy changed his nappy and noticed a purple spot the size of a 5c coin near his groin. Fearing meningococcal - even though he was fully vaccinated according to the public schedule of immunisations - his parents immediately took him back to Quirindi Hospital.

The staff on duty recognised meningococcal and immediately began antibiotics through a drip and started arranging a helicopter transfer to a major hospital.

Before that could happen, at 4.30am, Donald had a seizure and died; his organs unable to cope with the onslaught of the disease.

This is a story I wish we did not have to tell. I am so deeply sorry and angry for Mr and Mrs Peach.

This is a tragic story we’ve heard too many times before. Picture: iStock
This is a tragic story we’ve heard too many times before. Picture: iStock

And I'm furious that despite six years of our No Jab, No Play campaign, which has won sweeping legislative reform across Australia and resulted in our highest ever vaccination levels, governments are still ignoring our plea to put the meningococcal B vaccine on the free list. Its manufacturer has put the drug, Bexsero, up for inclusion in the vaccine schedule several times and been rejected on cost grounds by the federal Government. To me, that's a disgraceful failure of negotiation. It's an inexcusable failure by a Government that claims to care about families.

The vaccine was in shortage across Australia at the time I vaccinated our kids two years ago. It's now back in ready supply: but naturally the manufacturer prioritises markets where it has guaranteed sales - that is, the UK and other first-world countries that have put the vaccine on the government-subsidised vaccine schedule.

Babies presently are vaccinated for the four other major strains: A, C, W and Y, for free.

But Mr and Mrs Peach say nobody ever suggested they needed another vaccine for their kids, or told them a fifth deadly strain of meningococcal was out there. They are now getting the required two shots each for their surviving daughters, whatever the expense.

It's too late for little Donald.