Goverment defends meningococcal vaccine

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An eight-year-old girl has developed a rare bleeding disorder after being injected with the meningococcal vaccine.

Chelsea Ferris' mother thought she was doing the right thing by vaccinating her daughter against the deadly meningococcal bug.

But the reaction to the second vaccination was devastating.

"She had a wonderful immune system and she was a very active child, and through that now we have not such an active child and we have a child that's immune system is very wrecked and ruined," says Louise Blaire-Ferris.

Chelsea Ferris is just one case of 33 now accepted by ACC as being directly linked to the vaccination which has been used more than three million times.

A further 42 cases were declined by ACC because the reactions - bruising, redness and pain - are considered normal.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson admits he was not aware of the ACC cases, prompting an outburst from National Party spokesperson Tony Ryall.

"Does the Minister of Health actually appreciate how serious this information is? Because the public have been assured by health officials there have been no significant adverse events and parents like myself have immunised children on that basis," says Ryall.

But while health officials admit there have been some bad reactions, such as the nine cases of anaphylactic shock, there have been very few overall.

They say they do not accept ACC's decision to link other injuries directly with the vaccination.

"The issue of causality is one that can only be proven epidemiologically whether the ACC has accepted it or not," says Hodgson.

Hodgson says the vaccine is safe and is saving lives.

"This vaccination has been monitored harder than any other vaccination in our history and most vaccinations in anyone's history," he says.

National says if this is the case, it is time health officials were up front with the public and gave them all the facts, including the bad ones.

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