Move that will enrage pro and anti-vax parents alike
Children as young as 14 are being directly targeted to join a "safety testing" trial for a new meningococcal vaccine in a government mailout that has outraged both parents and experts.
The Federal Government's Services Department has sent out letters addressed to Queensland children offering them the chance to take art in the trials for a jab not yet approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Parents are angry that kids aged 14 years and over have been contacted by Services Australia based on Medicare information and that the letters, addressed to the minors, have excluded parents.
The correspondence has been sent out on behalf of Brisbane-based Aus Trials, a private clinical research organisation.
The letter states that Aus Trials asked Services Australia to send the letter direct to 14 to 25-year-olds and to the parents of 10 to 13-year-olds.
Bypassing parents for vaccine trials has surprised one of the nation's top meningococcal experts.
Paediatric infectious disease doctor Prof Robert Booy said that he would recommend parents are involved in the decision making for anyone under 18.
The study at Aus Trials Wellers Hill includes two vaccines that are already registered for use in Australia as well as the unregistered jab.
The letter states "help us to learn it if is safe and helps protect against five types of meningococcus germ, types A, B, C, W and Y".
An Aus Trials spokeswoman said there is always an element of risk.
"But I have to emphasise that our research team will contact parents for any child under 18 who is to be involved in the trial," she said.
"This kind of trial is important work but I think it's important to keep parents involved.
"There is such a thing as Gillick's law which can allow a mature minor to consent to their own medical treatment including vaccinations, but in my mind trials are a bit different."
A Brisbane parent is outraged that her 14-year-old daughter received the trial invite.
"How is it a child at 14 cannot get a body piercing or be employed without a parent's signature but can be invited to take part in a vaccine trial " to see if it is safe?" It is not acceptable," the mother told The Courier-Mail but did not want to identify her daughter.
A spokesman for Services Australia said all health initiatives it assisted with must receive approval by a Human Research Ethics Committee.
"As per privacy laws, anyone aged 14 years or older has control of who is able to view their My Health, Medicare and Immunisation Records. As this research relates to immunisations, any correspondence was sent to parents of children under 14 or directly to people aged 14 years or over," he said.
He said 14-year-olds could do a number of things independently of their parents or guardians, including registering for their own tax file number and opening their own bank account.
Originally published as Move that will enrage pro and anti-vax parents alike