$56 billion for an unwanted broadband network but no money for infant vaccines?

A VACCINE that provides the best protection from potentially fatal infant pneumococcal disease has been deferred for children over one because of federal government cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Parents will be forced to pay up to $150 to ensure toddlers are immunised against the potentially deadly infant pneumococcal disease because of a Budget crackdown on medicines.

Federal Cabinet last month approved Prevenar 13 to be listed on the PBS from April 1, but decided not to approve the "catch-up" dose for children previously immunised.

The catch-up program is designed to ensure children aged 12 to 35 months, who have received three doses of Prevenar 7 in their first year of life, are also offered the new vaccine that offers protection against more strains.

Medical experts have accused the Federal Government of "health rationing by stealth" after moves to restrict the number of drugs it subsidises until the Budget is back in surplus.

All prescription drugs recommended for listing on the PBS will have to jump an additional hurdle -- approval by Cabinet -- as part of a spending crackdown. Previously, only drugs recommended for listing that cost the Government more than $10 million a year were taken to Cabinet.

Cabinet has broken with tradition by not accepting the advice of its PBS advisory committee to list seven new drugs and a vaccine last month. It instead "deferred" a decision on the drugs, which include a painkiller and the pneumococcal vaccine.

Australian Medical Association federal vice-president Steven Hambleton said it was a case of "health rationing by stealth" and Cabinet should not intervene.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon said: "Given the current difficult fiscal circumstances, I feel it is appropriate to subject all government decisions that have a fiscal impact to scrutiny."


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