New childhood vaccines: former health minister warns of ‘pressures’ by Big Pharma

Former health minister Ana Jorge has spoken out against the decision by MPs to arbitrarily vote on three new childhood vaccines for inclusion in the national programme.

Choosing her words carefully, Jorge said the development was “in the very least strange”.

It was not championed in any, way shape or form by health authorities.

The 69-year-old pediatrician told journalists: “Very often pressures that exist to introduce this or that medication or this or that vaccination have nothing to do with technical questions but exclusively with economic questions, and with pressure from the pharmaceutical industry”.

And then Jorge let the ‘cat-out-of-the-bag’.

Anyone who can remember far enough back to the meningitis C ‘scare’ in 2003, will recall how new parents were quite literally terrified into seeking the vaccine for their infants, which wasn’t then on the national programme.

Jorge told Antena 1 this week that there had been a veritable “campaign that there was an epidemic” which was “patently fabricated” by what she called “pharmaceutical groups”.

The groups ended up seeing their vaccine approved for inclusion in the national programme two years later.

“We need to be very careful and aware of this because pressures certainly exist”, said Jorge.

In the case of the three new vaccines for inclusion on a list that already daunts new parents, Jorge said she couldn’t be certain what lay behind the decision which took doctors and health chiefs by surprise.

Indeed, the president of the association of doctors (Ordem dos Médicos) has criticised lawmakers for showing “a lack of respect to health professionals and the DGS (board of health)”.

Recently-appointed health minister Marta Temido meantime stressed that her department will be evaluating the way the decision is to be worded, guaranteeing that the vaccines – against Rotavirus (severe stomach upset in babies and young children), meningitis B and HPV in boys (the national programme already administers HPV to girls, designed to prevent cervical cancer) – have at no time been considered “universally necessary” by the national vaccine commission.

Their cost will run into ‘several hundred euros’ per head, says Público, and, in Ana Jorge’s opinion, this is a loaded precedent.

“It is not up to political power to decide what vaccines to include (in the national programme)”, she told journalists. “This should be left to a well informed technical commission”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com