The value the Australian community places on vaccines is an important policy question which is not often debated. When determining which vaccines to recommend, experts in our assessment system make a number of judgement calls on behalf of the Australian community. Some of these judgement calls are technical, however some are also value-based judgements that relate to: how our community values extending lives; which treatments or disease areas should be prioritised; and what benefits and costs are meaningful to individuals and society and should therefore be in scope for assessments.
However, across a range of issues, preventive interventions like vaccines are undervalued by the current assessment processes when compared to therapeutic medicines. This may result in delayed, limited or a lack of access to new vaccines. There are recent examples of clinically recommended vaccines that have not been recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and are not listed on the National Immunisation Program (NIP). These vaccines are therefore only available through state or territory-based programs or by private prescription. In some cases the barriers faced result in applications to be listed on the NIP simply not being submitted at all.
GSK has written a policy paper outlining the current challenges to how prevention and vaccines are valued. We have identified three urgent updates to current practice, all of which are immediately actionable and do not require reform or legislation. We have the right system with the right expertise and updates recommended here will ensure that we keep pace with international practice and community values. To get their assessments right, the experts need to hear from the community.