By Natasha Bita
AS a baby, Jacob McCarthy swallowed a spoonful of vaccine given by his doctor to protect him from polio.
That “live” vaccine, which contained small amounts of weakened polio virus and has since been replaced by a safer version, gave him the painful and paralytic symptoms of the devastating disease it was supposed to guard against.
It was a chance that medicos calculate to be one in 2.5 million – and Jacob was the one.
Now 15, the Queensland teenager is the case study in an escalating scientific debate over failure to compensate the rare but tragic cases of what health officials call “adverse events”.
Two of Australia’s top epidemiologists are demanding the introduction of a no-fault compensation scheme for victims of vaccination – a system already used in 19 nations including the US, New Zealand and Canada, and in most of Europe.
Associate professor Heath Kelly, who heads the epidemiology unit at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, and David Isaacs, a member of the federal government’s vaccine advisory committee, argue in the Medical Journal of Australia this month that the community owes a “debt of gratitude” to children harmed by vaccines given to provide the community with “herd immunity” against some of the world’s most dangerous diseases.
Professor Isaacs, who is on both the immunisation and the adverse drug reactions advisory groups of the Health Department’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, said yesterday he had raised the proposal at meetings of the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, as a matter of “ethics and justice”.
“It’s the sort of thing a caring government could do to encourage people to get their children immunised,” he told The Australian.
[Note from SaneVax: What a real ‘caring’ government would do is encourage scientific studies to determine the safety, efficacy of every ingredient currently used in vaccines, prior to approving and/or recommending additional vaccines for use.]