Friday, 31 May 2013

New Vaccination Laws in NSW

Recently the government introduced some tough new vaccination laws.  Under the new laws, unvaccinated children will be excluded from child care centres unless they can provide evidence from their GPs why their children cannot be vaccinated OR for religious reasons, the child cannot be vaccinated.
This has sparked a huge debate, and there are many opinions about this matter.
What is interesting is what some people have done to exploit loopholes in this system.
Recently in the news, a group of anti-vaccination campaigners have decided to create their own religion to use this loophole to circumvent the government's new law.  This will negate the government's attempt to boost public health awareness in preventable diseases.
Why are people refusing to vaccinate?
  1. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a paper in the Lancet suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  This was later found to be fraudulent, with Wakefield found to have fixed and manipulated data, as well as having a conflict of interest in publishing the paper by receiving £55000 from lawyers looking for evidence against vaccine manufacturers.  Since then, there have been multiple research papers with no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
  2. Herd immunity - if the vaccination rate is 95% then the 5% who are not vaccinated will be protected.  This is often the case for cancer patients and young babies as their immunity is low and it is they who will be put at risk.  If everyone is immune, then they will be protected as the disease will be unable to get a foothold.  Those parents who choose not to vaccinate believe that the herd immunity will help protect their child, which is probably true.
  3. Building immunity naturally without chemicals and toxins.  Vaccines used to contain heavy metals, formaldehyde - things which nobody would want injected into them.  Our body was made with an immune system to fight disease - we should use it.  (though it's funny - vaccines stimulate your immune system to fight the disease, not give immunity passively)
  4. Belief that vaccines don't work.
I am a health care professional, so perhaps my opinion is skewed.  Of course I will be a believer in the modern vaccine.  Giving your child a weak strain of a disease so that they can build up immunity to the strong strain is a great advance in modern medicine.

Measles is a childhood illness but the most serious complications can be panencephalitis (infection of the brain) which can cause permanent brain damage or death.  The risk of that is low - maybe 1:100,000.  It can also cause pneumonia which is very serious in adults - in 1920, the death rate from measles pneumonia was 30%. Of course with modern medicine that would be a lot less.

Mumps is generally a benign illness but can cause unilateral deafness in 1:2000 patients.  Panencephalitis can also occur.

Rubella is not a serious illness in childhood, but it causes significant problems in pregnancy.  Rubella is responsible for stillbirth in early pregnancy, and significant congenital defects in the heart, brain, eyes and ears, resulting in congenital heart defects, congenital cataracts, and deafness.  The vaccine was mainly developed to prevent infection during pregnancy.

I am not sure that restricting unvaccinated from childcare is the correct decision.  I agree that reducing their welfare payments for unvaccinated children as well as increasing health insurance premiums would be a better way to deal with the problem.  Drop the child care rebate for unvaccinated children.  They can still go to childcare but the government isn't going to help pay for them to go when they are disregarding publich health and safety.  The unvaccinated child should have the same rights as a vaccinated one - but just as we cannot force people to drive with their headlights on, we should be aware that they are compromising the safety of others, and they should be penalised for that.

I remember the case of the 4 week old baby who died from whooping cough in one of the lowest areas of vaccination in the state - that was 4 years ago.  That news item prompted a big push for vaccination. However, what I did not realise is that the anti-vaccinaters had a hate compaign against that family, who had already suffered enough.  Some of the comments or letters they received included:
  • "harden the f*** up"
  • "I could walk through a ward of babies dying of whooping cough or any other infectious disease and it would not affect my decision to vaccinate my children."
It must be hard enough to lose your own child without having to endure this insensitive barrage as well.

They are not the only ones.  Another father, whose son died of chicken pox, was rung by anti-vaccination campaigners who said this:
  • His son must have been weak, to have succumbed to such a harmless disease.  These things are a matter of survival of the fittest.
I urge everyone, to consider vaccinating your child - if not for their own safety, for the safety of others - including your own unborn children.