Sandra Kanck

  Extract from Hansard

Legislative Council
3 August 1999



Sandra Kanck
Deputy Leader Australian Democrats
Member of the Legislative Council



The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Transport and Urban Planning, representing the Minister for Human Services, a question about the hepatitis B school vaccination program which commenced this year.

Leave granted.

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: This campaign is being carried out by the South Australian Health Commission in collaboration with the manufacturers of the hepatitis B vaccine, SmithKline Beecham and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory. It is called an immunisation program, but it would be more accurate to call it a vaccination program as there is no evidence to show that all who are vaccinated will be immunised against the virus.

The information provided to the schools consists of a video and three information booklets entitled `Hep. B? Not Me': one for the student one for the parent, and one for the principal. All information or marketing material is supplied by SmithKline Beecham, the Victorian Department of Human Services and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. After watching the video and reading the pamphlets I can only describe the campaign as misleading. Although I am not advocating against vaccination, I do want to make it clear that I am advocating for informed choice.

Most worrying is the absence of information about adverse side effects which can be experienced after the vaccination. In the parents' information booklet it states:

. . . side effects are uncommon and include low grade fever, soreness, nausea, feeling unwell and joint pains.

Unfortunately, there are some far more serious side effects which the Government has failed to include in its information. These include: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis and Guillain Barre syndrome. It is interesting to note that full information about the vaccine is only available in the principal's information booklet.

Another concern I have involves the misuse of statistics. The pamphlet provided to students and parents states that one in 100 Australians are hepatitis B carriers. The Australian Immunisation Handbook generally used by GPs states that one to two in 1 000 Australian caucasians are carriers. The journal produced by the National Centre for Disease Control—Department of Health and Aged Care Communicable Diseases Intelligence—states in its annual report that the notification rate of hepatitis B for 1997 in Australia is 1.3 per 100 000. How this rate of infection can correlate to one in 100 Australians being carriers defies simple mathematics.

The video used in the campaign suggests that the hepatitis B virus is rampant in Australia and that the only defence against this rampant disease is vaccination. Doctors and nurses (called `the forces in white') say they are the `first and only line of defence for humans'. What `the forces in white' do not mention is that not everyone who is vaccinated will become immune to hepatitis B. Indeed, SmithKline and Beecham do not know how long the vaccination will protect against the virus. In effect, this means that students vaccinated in year 8 may not be protected from the virus when they approach the high risk age group of 20 to 24 years. What is also omitted—

The Hon. L.H. Davis interjecting:

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: Listen to what is being said, Mr Davis—

The Hon. L.H. Davis: You are talking about one particular vaccine.


The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: —and you might understand why I am asking this question. What is also omitted is that in approximately 95 per cent of cases hepatitis B is self limiting and a full recovery is made. A further example of misleading information contained in the video is a statement from the teenage presenter. He says:

But sometimes the betabaddies are so sneaky that they get into people without the people even knowing what they've done to put them at risk of being invaded. This means that anyone can catch the disease no matter how hard they try to avoid it.

My questions to the Minister are:

1. How much does the program cost; how is the program funded; and who pays for the vaccine?

2. What percentage of people vaccinated develop immunity?

3. Given the conflicting statistics on hepatitis B carriers and the number of cases reported, can the Minister provide accurate figures of notified cases of hepatitis B and the number of carriers in South Australia since 1989?

4. If there has been no marked increase, why has the Government introduced the program?

5. What is the incidence of adverse side effects from the vaccine in comparison to the incidence of the hepatitis B virus?

6. Will the Minister withdraw the current information provided and supply parents and students with full information about the virus and vaccine?

7. Has this program been authorised by the Minister for Education to be implemented in our schools and, if so, when was the authorisation given?

The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member's explanation was in excess of six minutes and full of opinion and debate. I continually point that out to members. I will soon start sitting members down and calling on the next question, if they continue to stray into four and five minute explanations.

The Hon. DIANA LAIDLAW: I will refer the honourable member's comments and questions to the Minister and bring back a reply.