A Daley Labor Government will fund 8,000 vaccinations for at-risk residents in rural and regional NSW as part of its $4 million commitment to combat Q fever.
The vaccinations will be available to people who are currently not covered under employer schemes.
Under this policy Labor will extend the existing vaccinations of workers in key industries as well as young students and teachers in agricultural colleges, all of whom should be vaccinated but are often not.
Q fever is a bacterial infection that can cause a severe flu-like illness. The bacteria are spread from animals, mainly cattle, sheep and goats, however people who do not have contact with animals can also be infected.
NSW Labor Leader, Michael Daley, NSW Shadow Health Minister, Walt Secord, and NSW Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Rural Affairs, Mick Veitch, made the joint announcement.
Mr Daley said Labor was proud to launch an initiative that helped rural and regional NSW.
“I come from a long line of dairy farmers from the state’s Mid North Coast so I have an understanding of people who work on the land,” Mr Daley said.
“Labor believes this is an important community safety issue which affects the health of students, farmers, sole-trader businesses and community members as well as employees.
Mr Secord is a long-time advocate for the expansion of vaccinations in the community.
“The Berejiklian Government has claimed that this is simply an industrial relations matter and the cost should be met by the employers and/or their workers. We disagree. We believe it is a community vaccination matter,” said Mr Secord.
“Vaccinations are one of the 20th century’s great public health achievements,” he said.
The program will run for two years. It will decrease costs for patients, improve efficiency of testing and vaccination, and give GPs certainty when considering running Q fever vaccination programs.
Labor has allocated $3.7 million for testing and vaccinations which equates to 4,000 tests per year. The program will be reviewed at the end of the second year.
And $300,000 has been allocated to Professor Stephen Graves at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute at Menangle to progress his groundbreaking work in the development of a new vaccine which will be simpler to administer.
Mr Veitch is a long-term sufferer from Q fever which he contracted as a young shearer.
“For some people, Q fever will affect their health and ability to work for many years,” he said.
“This money will allow for more testing and more vaccinations. It shows that Labor listens to and cares about those on the frontline who could potentially contract this terrible disease.
“The Liberals and Nationals have prioritised that a safe and effective vaccine is available for Q fever but they haven’t rolled out a comprehensive plan to extend the number of people with access to that vaccine.
“I’m particularly pleased that we have been able to provide $300,000 to the research being undertaken by Professor Graves which will hopefully lead to a more effective and convenient vaccine,” said Mr Veitch.
Between 2002 and 2012 there were 177 workers compensation claims for Q fever in NSW with costs totalling more than $3.5 million.
Labor’s program will be rolled out in GP clinics in at-risk areas and will include a $500 subsidy to cover the costs associated with required pathology testing as well as the cost of the vaccine.