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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3776 ..

ACWY immunisation program, which has subsequently been included on the national immunisation program. In the 2019-20 budget, we committed funding for our share of the cost for the ongoing implementation of that meningococcal vaccination.

MRS KIKKERT: Minister, what other information did the government have about the duration of protection of the vaccine and the impact on the operation of the vaccination program when it made the promise?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: In the incoming minister’s brief in 2016, which the opposition has access to under FOI, there was some information in relation to the duration of protection afforded by meningococcal B vaccine, which was that the duration of protection was currently unknown due to the limited data; that it was not known at that time whether there was a requirement for an additional booster dose at four years of age or in early childhood; and that if future evidence indicated that a booster dose was required for ongoing protection, that would also need to be implemented.

The incoming minister’s brief in 2016 also identified some additional risks in relation to the meningococcal B vaccination which would need to be taken into account were a vaccination program to be implemented, in particular the association of the meningococcal B vaccination with the risk of high fevers post administration of the vaccine, and that those high fevers could lead to febrile convulsions. It noted particularly the importance of sustaining public trust in government-funded vaccination programs.

We have acted on the basis of the evidence that is available and in relation to both the prevalence of the meningococcal B virus and meningococcal W and Y, and have therefore taken the decision to support the implementation of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine, which, as I said earlier, is now also on the national immunisation program. We will continue to monitor the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee’s upcoming review of meningococcal B.

MS LAWDER: Minister, why then did your government promise the vaccine in 2016?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: Evidence evolves over time, and I am certainly very aware that the makers of the meningococcal B vaccine have been strongly promoting their product. They have reapplied to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee for reconsideration by PBAC of the appropriateness of adding the meningococcal B vaccine to the national immunisation program.

The evidence available prior to the 2016 election would have evolved. Obviously the information available in the incoming minister’s brief after the 2016 election and then the subsequent information about the prevalence of different strains of meningococcal all fed into the decision of the government to proceed with the meningococcal ACWY vaccine program, to which we committed $1.4 million in the 2017-18 budget and committed ongoing funding to our share of the cost to deliver that program in the 2019-20 budget.

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