Price paid too high not to fund vaccines

Bruce Langoulant, OPINION – The West Australian on May 23, 2016, 11:58 am

Meningitis Centre chairman Bruce Langoulant interacts with his daughter Ashleigh Langoulant who has cerebral palsey as a result of pneumococcal disease.

OPINION: As a lay person with more than 20 years watching and learning about the power and effectiveness of vaccines to provide widespread community protection from communicable diseases, I have a real concern as many diseases become rare diseases.
Will we remember why we immunise and will low-case numbers of vaccine-preventable deadly diseases mean they won’t be included in our very successful and funded national immunisation program?

Such is the situation with meningococcal B disease and the vaccine which has been licensed but not funded. Meningococcal B disease is still causing deaths and disabilities to our children under five and adolescents and young adults mainly. The incidence rate is at all-time low numbers, with about 50 cases nationally so far this year.

My interest is anchored by the experience of our middle daughter contracting a life-threatening and debilitating disease in 1989 when she was six months old. The disease was pneumococcal disease and she still suffers from the after effects of pneumococcal meningitis.

Her cerebral palsy, her deafness, her epilepsy, her inability to walk or talk and her significant intellectual disabilities are the lasting results. Unfortunately, there was no vaccine available back then.

We should continue to protect our children, families and communities from vaccine-preventable and life-threatening diseases such as meningococcal B. It is a rapidly developing disease which can kill in 24 hours and has a record for leaving far more of its victims with significant lifelong disabilities.

Forgive me for being hard on this but it appears that the lasting challenges and costs of a person’s disability over decades needs to be better understood so that the power of preventive lifesaving interventions such as vaccines are emotionally and financially better understood by all.

Our community is told repeatedly of the death statistics from diseases and this is important, but the greater numbers and the true burden in both financial, physical and emotional terms is related to the disabilities they cause.

A clear demonstration of this concern in current terms is the Federal Government’s enormous commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Their real concern though is how much it will cost.

My point here is, at what point do we pay? How much and for how long?

In my daughter’s case, we conservatively estimate the cost of servicing her needs will be at least $8 million from now to her 65th birthday, a term of 40 years. She is unable to care for herself nor work in any capacity. She lives with us. Her accommodation and past costs are not included.

The role of preventive vaccines and the immense long-term benefits they offer should not be misunderstood. They are an investment in our people.

Since 1992/3 when the hib vaccine was introduced in Australia and in 2003 with the meningococcal C vaccine’s introduction and again with the 7 and 13 valent pneumococcal disease vaccines from 2005, the incidence of these diseases has been dramatically reduced.

Today these are rare diseases as a result of the routine and free access to their vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.

Realistically, Australians are among the best protected from vaccine-preventable diseases on the planet because of our nationally funded program.

We need to realise this and protect this position by including the meningococcal B vaccine as a matter of course.

There are many of us out here who know the other side and there are more to follow if we don’t.

Bruce Langoulant is a parent/carer and the chairman of Meningitis Centre Australia.

SOURCE: The West Australian
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