Will rally be "too political"?
Will the meningitis trust be accused of being too politically active when it marches through the streets of Wellington
tomorrow? . The Trust together with mums, dads and concerned citizens will march to the lawns of the Beehive in
Wellington pleading with the government to put a new vaccine on the free list for 2008.
With the breaking news associated with the legislation announced by the charities commission, the actions taken by this
group to save the lives of our babies could be severely limited by the enforcement of this prescriptive legislation.
"We must be able to make ourselves heard," says trust general manager Fiona Colbert.
Fiona, a nurse and midwife in London before moving to New Zealand, has first-hand experience with pneumococcal disease.
Her son contracted it as a baby. Her son Corbin made a remarkable recovery, but it made the Colbert family realize what
a close call they had. So rather than let it happen to other families, she got off her backside and is now a crusader
for providing advocacy and both emotional and practical support to families whose lives are affected by all strains of
bacteria that cause meningitis.
The vaccine would virtually eliminate the deadly pneumoccocal disease that globally accounts for about 20% of all child
deaths and other disabilities including cerebral palsy, pneumonia, bacterial otitis media (glue ear) and sinusitis. It
affects about 500 New Zealanders every year, 150 of whom will develop meningitis.
Under the new bill, the Meningitis Trust would face being struck off the charities register for acting more politically
than as a charity.
The trust is making a final plea to the ITWG (Immunisation Technology Working Group) who will meet next week to make
recommendations to the government as to whether the pneumococcal vaccine should be given funding in 2008.
A colourful procession, will gather force at the cenotaph, including a Toddle Waddle duck (a Meningitis Trust campaign
mascot) and a group of about 50 pre-school children, to march up to the lawn of Parliament and present a public appeal
to Health Minister Pete Hodgson.
The public appeal is made up of over 2000 cards, letters and e-mails that were part of a Meningitis Trust website and
postcard campaign, where people could indicate support in an e-card or fax to Health Minister Pete Hodgson or Prime
Minister Helen Clark, in order to get the pneumococcal vaccine on the free list.
The children on the march will carry blocks, each named with one of the illnesses that can result from pneumococcal
disease, and which many of the families present have experienced. They will build the blocks into a wall about one metre
high and 2.5 metres long. The march will also include banners bearing the country flags of countries that already have
free access to the vaccine. They include Canada, UK, Australia and Mexico.
Fiona will lead tomorrow's parade, surrounded by supporters and friends united in their desire to see the vaccine made
available to all families and save other children from death and disability. It would be a travesty that the voice of
the community to make our elected officials aware of such issues is lost through the enforcement of this legislation.