A Good Shot at a Normal Life.

As a lay person with over 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 ( a strain of meningitis) and the vaccine which has been licensed but not funded. Meningococcal B disease is still causing deaths and disabilities to our children under five years and older adults.

My interest is anchored by the experience of our middle daughter Ashleigh contracting a life threatening and debilitating disease at age 6 months in 1989. The disease was Pneumococcal disease and she had and 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 Men 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 desirability over decades needs to be better understood so that the power of preventative lifesaving interventions such as vaccines are emotionally and financially better understood by all.

Our community is told repeatedly of the mortality statistics from diseases and of course 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 will it 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 Australian dollars from now until her 65th birthday, approximately 40 years. She is unable to care for herself, nor work independently. She lives with us. Her accommodation and past costs are not included.

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

Since 1992/93 when the Hib vaccine was introduced in Australia and in 2003 with the Men 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 moderately rare diseases as a result  of the routine and free access to their vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.

Realistically Australians and their communities 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 !

Written by Bruce Langoulant - Chairman of Meningitis Centre Australia

Click here if you are interested in signing our Men B petition    or to find out the symptoms of meningitis

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