Immunisation



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SpeakersPezzutti The Hon Dr Brian
BusinessAdjournment


    IMMUNISATION
Page: 4402


    The Hon. Dr BRIAN PEZZUTTI [5.50 p.m.]: I draw the attention of honourable members to serious concerns that have been expressed recently about immunisation. Honourable members will recall an article in the Daily Telegraph of 23 August reporting on homeopaths offering so-called remedies which they claim immunise those taking the product against various diseases. The article drew attention to the fact that people, including homeopath Jo Clarke, were offering drops of homeopathic medicines called meningococcal vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine and so on. When the attention of the Therapeutic Goods Administration was drawn to this the products were withdrawn. Nyema Hemiston, president of the New South Wales Australian Homeopathic Association, said that any homeopath's marketing a product as a vaccine against meningococcal disease would be doing so without the sanction of the association. She said:
        Homeopathic medicines are not vaccines, they are medicines that stimulate an immune response to specific diseases.

    They do not do anything of the sort! She went on to say:
        We would be very concerned if patients had a level of confidence that they had been definitely protected against any disease because of homeopathic medicine.

    I absolutely concur. My first concern is that homeopaths are offering what the Daily Telegraph calls snake oil medicines. My second concern is that people in the community are running a major campaign against immunisation against diseases that kill. I refer to an article of 3 August this year in the Northern Star. A high school student from the Mullumbimby area contracted measles, the first incidence of this highly contagious disease in the Northern Rivers region for two years. A major immunisation program was initiated by the Commonwealth and supported by NSW Health. In 1990 15 teenagers died in a major measles epidemic in Queensland. It is a very serious issue. Director of the Northern Rivers Public Health Unit, Mark Bartlett, said that the case highlighted the importance of encouraging unvaccinated children and adults to be immunised. He said the vaccine was available free to children and people aged 18 to 30 through community health centres or local general practitioners. On 8 August, following that major story, another article in the Northern Star stated:
        Byron Bay resident Luke McMahon believes leading a healthy lifestyle is enough to protect... children against disease.

    This is patently not true. In 1997 hundreds of kids in New South Wales got measles. This situation had gone on for years. The immunisation program brought immunisation levels across the State up to 97 per cent. However, the figures for the Northern Rivers are not that good. In Ballina shire it is 90 per cent, in Richmond River shire and Lismore 83 per cent, and in Kyogle 78 per cent. But only 60 per cent of children in the Byron Bay area in the 12 to 15 month age group—the very young and most vulnerable—are immunised. That is mainly because of the activities of a woman called Meryl Dorey, who lives in Byron Bay and who has decided not to immunise her children and who regularly claims that immunisation is not necessary. She campaigns against immunisation.

    The Hon. John Jobling: It is necessary for whooping cough and scarlet fever.

    The Hon. Dr BRIAN PEZZUTTI: It is necessary for a whole range of diseases which are very dangerous. People who had contact with that young man and had not been immunised would have had to stay away from school, interrupting their studies. More importantly, he could have been a source of infection for more than 40 per cent of the young children in Byron Bay shire. The only reason an outbreak in the area did not occur earlier is the major improvement in herd immunity. Only one other case has been notified in the last year in New South Wales, and that came from overseas. People who are not immunised may come back from overseas and then mix with their mates who have not been immunised. Then the disease can spread right through a specific age group. This is a very serious matter, as reported by the Daily Telegraph. I call upon the Therapeutic Goods Administration to crack down on this sort of snake oil therapy, and I call on the New South Wales Government to again initiate a major program on the North Coast to support immunisation across the board in places such as Byron Bay. [Time expired.]