Dr Trevor Mudge, AMA Vice President, Meryl Dorey, Australian Vaccination Network, with Melissa Doyle and Chris Reason, Channel Seven, 'Sunrise'

21/08/2002

REASON: Well, heated debate continues over plans to vaccinate a million Australians against Meningococcal disease. Some groups say it could even cost more lives than it saves.

DOYLE: Well, let's talk more about that now. Joining us from Lismore is Meryl Dorey, from the Australian Vaccination Network. And from Adelaide we're joined by Doctor Trevor Mudge from the Australian Medical Association. Good morning to both of you. Thanks for your time.

Meryl, just to start with you, why are you against the vaccination process?

DOREY: Well, I believe that this vaccination has not been investigated thoroughly by the government. If you look at the information from the manufacturer, it says specifically that this vaccination has never been tested for effectiveness. And the safety studies that have been done have been in very small groups of children.

And when we look at what's happened overseas with this vaccination, we see that when they used it in the United Kingdom they had over 16,000 serious adverse reactions reported, and 12 deaths in less than 10 months. And that's many many more times the number of reactions that they had in 37 years using the triple antigen vaccine.

So I believe there are very serious concerns about health issues with this vaccination. And, in addition, it's not even the correct strain for Australia because the majority of meningococcal in this country is being caused by Group B. And this vaccine only contains Group C and only three of 13 strains of Group C at that. So there are some concerns.

REASON: Trevor Mudge, some frightening statistics that Meryl's just given us there. 16,000 adverse reactions. What's your reaction to her comment?

MUDGE: Well, I haven't seen that data, but the history of the anti-vaccination movement is that the science doesn't hold up. Their claims really have never had any scientific veracity, and I doubt very much if this one has either.

DOYLE: So do you not see the vaccination as any more dangerous than any other vaccination that's given to children, for example for polio and rubella and…

MUDGE: Absolutely. This is one of the new generation vaccines. There's absolutely no reason in theory, or indeed in the wide experience in the UK, to suggest that it does anything other than save lives.

REASON: Meryl, we've got to let you respond to that. Your claims never stand up, says Dr Mudge?

DOREY: Well, I find that absolutely shocking, I've got to say. Because all of the statements that the Australian Vaccination issues are backed by references. And almost always from medical journals. And I have the papers on 16,000 serious adverse reactions and I have faxed that around to quite a few news media.

I would like the government to prove that the vaccine is safe before they actually issue it. And I would like testing to be done by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, because this vaccine, like all other vaccines, has not been tested by the TGA. We simply rely on overseas testing and many times that testing is funded lock, stock and barrel by the very same companies that actually release the vaccines to market. And I don't think that's appropriate.

DOYLE: Dr Trevor Mudge, what path do we then go down? Do we need to have the vaccination widespread, or do you think we're panicking?

MUDGE: Well, I think if you look at the numbers, I mean this is a tragic condition in the sense that it's at random, it strikes at young fit people and it has a 10% mortality. So it's a bit like shark attack. It's not the frequency of it, it's the horror of the disease. And I think the community is understandably terrified of it. And I think that the money is well spent.

Yes, it isn't going to make meningococcal disease go away. It's only effective against the C strain, which only accounts for a third of cases. We need more money spent on research.

Vaccination really is the only strategy for this condition that is likely to work, because early diagnosis and early treatment hasn't been shown to diminish the terrible toll this disease takes.

REASON: Trevor, are you saying that Meryl's claim could be responsible for more damage than the vaccines could? How are you...

MUDGE: Oh, absolutely. Look, I think if you look worldwide the anti-vaccine movement has been responsible for a number of deaths and I think that they really should not be given any scientific veracity at all.

DOYLE: Meryl Dorey, your response to that?

DOREY: First of all I object to being called part of an anti-vaccination movement. I am part of a pro-choice movement, pro-information. Vaccination is a medical procedure. It's a science. No science is above question.

What the doctors are saying is that we should accept this without any question whatsoever. What I am saying is that it's a science. It needs to be studied. There needs to be independent research. And the government can spend $41 million introducing this vaccine and yet it has not committed one cent to researching the safety and effectiveness. And, as far as I'm concerned, that's irresponsible on the part of the government and irresponsible on the part of the medical community.

So we say investigate these things thoroughly. Prove that they're safe and effective and then, by all means, release them. But right now the basic research, the basic science has not been formed.

REASON: Trevor, isn't there a point that Meryl makes there about getting this stuff tested by our own organisations within Australia rather than relying on other countries' evidence and the manufacturers of these products to tell us that they're good for us?

MUDGE: Look, the studies have been done. It's simply not true to say that vaccination hasn't been extensively tested. It has been extensively tested. And the claims that the Anti-Vaccine Movement make simply are not scientifically true.

Yes, we haven't tested it in Australia. We haven't imported it into Australia yet. But it's been extensively tested around the world. The claims simply do not stack up.

DOYLE: So what do parents do this morning who are obviously fearful for their children and who are deciding do we get our kids vaccinated or not? Dr Trevor Mudge, what do they do? Where does this leave them?

MUDGE: Well, they believe the scientific facts and not believe in the flat earth society. I mean the facts are that vaccination saves lives. Vaccination against any disease has been the biggest success in public health ever. I mean ever since the parish pump handle was taken away during a cholera epidemic. I mean public health is terribly important to the community and it is scientifically tested. And quite honestly, giving a platform to the Anti-Vaccine lobby simply costs lives around the world.

REASON: A big claim. Meryl Dorey, would you like to just make a response there?

DOREY: Yes, I would. What the Australian Vaccination Network says is that any parent who is facing making this decision must look at both sides first. They must take responsibility for their children. Get the information from their doctors, from the government, and get the information from an organisation like the Australian Vaccination Network. Look at both sides of the issues and then make an informed choice.

Whether you're a doctor, whether you have medical training or not, you are still able to understand this information and to make the choice that's best for your particular situation. Every child is different. Every family is different. So contact the Australian Vaccination Network, contact your health practitioner and then make a choice based on what you feel is best.

DOYLE: All right. Meryl Dorey, Dr Trevor Mudge, thank you both very much for your time this morning.

DOREY: Thank you.

Ends