It has come to my attention that a courageous anti-vaxxer, by the name of Suz Lacey, has snuck into a bookshop somewhere in Western Australia and left calling cards about the ‘dangers’ of immunisation inside several baby books (mine and others). Suz apparently belongs to a ‘closed’ Facebook anti-vaxx group that protects the identities of its members. There is no mention on Suz’s regular Facebook page of her sneaky forays into bookshops. If Suz is so convinced of her anti-vaxx stance, I wonder why she doesn’t openly stand at the bookshop door and hand her cards out. Or let the world know of her baby-saving efforts on her regular Facebook page.
Immunisation rates in Australia
The latest analysis of childhood vaccination data shows that the percentage of babies who are fully immunised by 24 months has decreased by 0.2%.
Most of Australia has reasonable rates of immunisation. By reasonable I am referring to enough babies/toddlers being immunised to provide herd immunity. Herd immunity increases the efficiency of vaccines as well as protecting the vulnerable and susceptible who are unable to be immunised. For a great explanation of herd immunity watch the video below.
There are, however, some notable areas where the immunisation rates are so low that herd immunity is at risk.
These areas include:
- In NSW – the North Coast and hinterland, Sydney’s Eastern suburbs and Western Sydney.
- In Queensland – the Gold Coast
- In Western Australia – Southwest Denmark, North Fremantle and Perth Southern suburbs.
Why parents don’t immunise their babies
Historically, there have been two main groups of parents not immunising their babies. One is the unaware or disadvantaged group whose babies may not be fully immunised because the parents don’t know where to go, don’t know when to go, feel they can’t afford it, maybe come from closed communities where English is the second, or third, language. Targeting these families is relatively easy and there are ways to encourage and help them fully immunise their babies.
The other group is the rapidly increasing flat-earthers, the anti-immunisation activists who not only refuse to immunise their babies, but are on a religious journey to persuade all parents to follow in their footsteps. In the past, they were a relatively small but vocal group who received more media attention than their numbers warranted. Now it appears that their numbers are increasing and include well-educated, often professional, middle class parents as well as a group of clueless celebrities who, unfortunately, have the platform to peddle their nonsense.
The anti-immunisation activists
It is extraordinary that the overwhelming benefits of childhood immunisation are being undermined by this growing noisy group, revelling in their ‘conscientious objector’ status.
Having had contact with many of these ‘martyrs’ when I was a midwife and child and family health nurse, I was always struck by their smug rejection of immunisation; a procedure they inevitably revealed an appalling ignorance of. There was a lot of silly talk about the debilitating childhood diseases of the past now not being a risk thanks to clean drains, efficient sewerage plants, sunshine, vegan diets, probiotics, homeopathic raindrops, amber beads, dairy-free diets, organic lettuce and so on.
Wearing an aura of the brave, caring parent standing up for the rights of his/her baby, the conscientious objectors would regale me in hushed whispers of government conspiracies, big pharma corruption, damaged immune systems and damaged brains, and instruct me that it was ‘good’ for children to get whooping cough, measles and chicken pox. I was always interested to note how many of these parents got themselves immunised when travelling abroad to countries where life-threatening diseases were a risk.
Here’s my idea of bravery:
In the excellent HBO series John Adams about the life of America’s second president, there is a scene set in 1776, based on fact, when Abigail Adams’s children are inoculated against smallpox. Smallpox killed countless people during this time, and Abigail was only too aware that her children were unlikely to escape the current epidemic sweeping the town. In desperation she decided to put her children through the barbaric procedure called variolation.
Abigail Adams, played superbly by Laura Linney, made me ache for a mother’s agony in having to make a choice between the certainty that her children would fall to the smallpox infection and the risks associated with the crude procedure, all that was available to protect them. She chose correctly, they all survived the smallpox epidemic thanks to her bravery.
In comparison to the estimable Abigail Adams the parents of today who ‘fearlessly’ take a stand against immunisation (sneaking into books shops and leaving silly calling cards) are all noise and no risk. Their mad ideas are completely untested because their babies/children are protected by the greater number of rational parents who immunise their babies.
Anti-vaxxer reports and ‘research’ are incorrect
Over the years modern vaccines have become ever more refined and safer (they’ve always been safer than the diseases they protect against) and have provided high levels of protection against many debilitating infectious diseases for children and adults over many generations. As the decades have slipped by there are now parents and grandparents who have never experienced the devastating effects of polio, diphtheria, tetanus and so on and thus have no idea of the sorrow and tragic results of these diseases.
Reports and ‘research’ alleging that vaccines cause brain damage, autism and Sudden Unexpected Death in Children (SUDI) have been shown time and time again to be incorrect. The classic example is the anti-immunisation paper claiming a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism published in 1998 that was completely discredited and is now accepted as being fraudulent.
As immunisation rates fall the diseases reappear
What is indisputable is that as immunisation rates fall the diseases reappear, which puts very young babies, and the few babies who cannot be immunised, at great risk for what should be preventable diseases.
Immunisation is not without risks and sadly there have been a small number of children adversely affected by immunisation. As vaccines improve and become even more refined that small number will diminish even further. Understandably the parents of these babies will have strong concerns about the process for all babies. Nevertheless, it is certain that if immunisation was not available these diseases would reappear and there would not be a few babies affected, but thousands.
Babies who are not immunised are protected because most babies in Australia are immunised. The non-immunising parents, the ‘conscientious objectors’, are riding on the backs of the truly conscientious parents who immunise their children.
For more information go to:
- No vaccine for the scaremongers. By the WHO: http://goo.gl/Ku4mxo
- Doubt and Denialism: Vaccine Myths Persist in the Face of Science. http://goo.gl/vi6YRe
Debunked myth linking mercury in vaccines to autism:
This article was republished with permission. You can read the original here.
Robin Barker is a retired midwife and child and family health nurse and a mother and grandmother who likes to swim. Preferably in the ocean. Author of Baby Love, The Mighty Toddler, and Close To Home. You can follow her on Facebook and on her website.