The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)

Australia-Needle-ShadowThe Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) provides advice to the Minister for Health on the Immunise Australia Program and other related issues.  There is a concerning lack of transparency about this group as membership of ATAGI was not publicly known until 2012.  There are no Disclosure Statements on the ATAGI web page, so it is unclear if any members of ATAGI have any potential conflicts of interest.  (I have correspondence with the Health Minister’s office on these matters commencing in November 2011.)

Professor Terry Nolan, Chair of ATAGI, was included as a cc on my letter to the Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, questioning government mandated vaccination of children with two doses of live Measles / Mumps / Rubella (MMR) vaccine, despite the fact most children are likely to be immune after the first effective dose of MMR vaccine.

Revaccination of already immune children constitutes over-vaccination, particularly as serological testing is available to verify a response to initial vaccination.  It appears unlikely that parents are being informed of the option of serological testing, and instead are being coerced to have arbitrary revaccination of their children with a second dose of live MMR vaccine (misleadingly described as a ‘booster’).

The Minister’s office refused to respond to my letter.

On 11 March 2013, I forwarded an email directly to Professor Nolan of ATAGI, requesting his response to the questions originally put to Federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, about the arbitrary second dose of the MMR vaccine.

On 12 March 2013 I received a response from the ATAGI Secretariat saying: “Thank you for your email. Please be advised that a response will be prepared for you as quickly as possible.”  On 5 November 2013 I received a hard copy of a response from Professor Nolan (dated 27 May 2013) via South Australian Government MP, Stephanie Key, who I requested intervene on my behalf for a response on this matter from the then Federal Government Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek.  It appears the extraordinary delay in my receiving a response from Professor Nolan was due to an incorrect email address being included in his letter, which means I did not receive the electronic version (i.e. it was sent to the wrong person).  

Professor Nolan’s response failed to properly address the important matters I had raised in relation to ‘informed consent’ before vaccination, and also disclosure of potential conflicts of interest of members of ATAGI.

My experience in corresponding with the Federal Health Minister’s office, and the Chair of ATAGI, on this matter has been entirely unsatisfactory.

I have now forwarded two letters challenging the Australian Government’s requirement for revaccination of children with a second dose of live Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine to Professor Ian Olver, Chair of the NHMRC Australian Health Ethics Committee.  (Letters dated 12 April 2014 and 19 March 2014.)

I have also forwarded a letter to Professor Warwick Anderson, CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), suggesting the ethical spotlight needs to be shone on the way vaccination policy and practice is being implemented in Australia, and I provide examples of the lack of transparency and accountability in the vaccination bureaucracy.

In particular, I raise the problem of potential conflicts of interest and lack of disclosure by people involved in vaccination policy, followed by an example of parents being coerced into having a vaccine product for their children (i.e. the live Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine second dose) without being properly informed about this vaccine, and their options.

I have been advised by Jillian Barr, Director, NHMRC Health and Research Ethics Section, that my letter to Professor Anderson, and my letters to Professor Olver re the MMR second dose, will be considered by the NHMRC Australian Health Ethics Committee at its meeting in May 2014.

I have established a webpage to record my correspondence with the NHMRC re vaccination and ethics.