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Rushtons deliver impassioned vaccine plea

Rushtons deliver impassioned vaccine plea
Claire and Gerard Rushton represented the Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand before the Health Select Commitee on Wednesday.

“Make her death mean something.”
That was the message from Claire and Gerard Rushton when they fronted the Health Select Committee on their petition to provide a free meningococcal vaccine programme for all secondary students.
An emotional Claire Rushton gave a detailed account of the harrowing experience of losing their daughter Courtenay to meningococcal disease in 2014.
It was a tragic, but avoidable loss that has the couple campaigning to ensure no other parent has to go through that anguish.
“It’s real, and will be echoed through other families without a determined effort to eradicate the disease,” she said.
The Rushtons were leading the delegation from Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand, of which Gerard is the chair.
The day before they addressed the health select committee, Pharmac announced plans to fund the meningococcal B vaccine from March 2023.
Pharmac plans to make the vaccine available to all children up to 12 months of age, and a catch-up programme for children from 13 to 59 months of age (inclusive) to August 31, 2025.
It will also be for people aged 13 to 25 years “who are entering into or in their first year of close-living situations”, and a catch-up programme for people this age who are already living in close-living situations to February 28, 2024.
The timing of Pharmac’s announcement was suggested to be more than a coincidence but whatever the timing, the Rushtons said the announcement “doesn’t go far enough”.
Gerard questioned why the vaccine would only be available to those attending tertiary study and living in halls of residence, and said the proposal completely misses the two most significant at-risk groups, Māori and Pasifika within the age range.
The plan was rife with discrimination, Gerard said, and he believes it should be more widely available than just for a select few.
“We need to protect all our children before they leave school,” Gerard said.
Claire said Pharmac’s announcement would not have protected Courtenay, and she pleaded to the select committee to do more.
“Prevention must come before treatment.
“Make her death mean something.”
Awareness is also a major issue, as Rushton has concerns that the existing vaccination programme has failed to reach its target set by the government.
“People need to know they’re eligible, and that a vaccine is available,” Gerard said.
Following the submission, the Rushtons said it was a case of waiting to see if the select committee listened, and in the meantime, they will prepare to submit on Pharmac’s proposal, which closes on November 8.

  • By Jonathan Leask