Plea to continue pertussis booster program
STATE governments should consider maintaining free pertussis booster programs for new parents until clinical data on other potential vaccination strategies are available, the AMA says.
AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said it seemed illogical to pull the programs.
“How about we keep the programs running until we get something better?” he said.
Parents of infants who died from pertussis are lobbying state governments to continue with the free vaccine after Victoria announced its scheme would end in June.
In an open letter, Toni McCaffery, the mother of baby Dana McCaffery who died from pertussis in 2009, said it was a hasty decision.
“There is no evidence that cocooning is not effective. It is too early to make that call,” she said.
The NSW and Queensland cocooning programs are also only funded until June and are under review. WA has announced an extension until the end of the year.
The Victorian government’s decision to discontinue the scheme follows two PBAC recommendations made last year rejecting applications for National Immunisation Program (NIP) listing of two vaccines on the basis of “uncertain clinical effectiveness of the cocooning strategy” and “likely high and highly uncertain cost-effectiveness”.
Dr Hambleton said the cocooning strategy was biologically plausible but evidence must be gathered to confirm it. “We have to gather the data to prove it works and then resubmit to the PBAC.”
He said there should be continued monitoring of the effectiveness of the current scheme.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has said it is considering the place of antepartum vaccination, while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced vaccination of pregnant women last year.
“When we have that data, let us do the best of these. Otherwise we are deciding to do nothing,” Dr Hambleton told MO.
Eight babies have died of whooping cough since 2008 with a total of 38,500 cases reported last year.
Dr Hambleton said the epidemic appeared to have peaked in most states with fewer notifications in the first few months of this year, compared to last year.
Read the parents’ open letter and petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/premiers-and-health-ministers-of-australia-keep-free-whooping-cough-boosters