Rationality Wins: Australia not Entertaining the Anti-Vaccine Movement.

I don’t have kids and probably won’t for another few years but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand some of the things that parents go through. I used to work in child care back in the day and by far the biggest concern any of the parents had was their child’s health. As a care giver every child’s health was my concern as disease has a tendency to spread rapidly in those situations and one sick kid can mean dozens if not taken care of correctly. This, amongst numerous other reasons, is why I fail to understand why some parents refuse to vaccinate their children as otherwise you’re putting them (and other children) at a great risk.

Now I know the reasons why most parents don’t vaccinate their children. Mostly it has to do with their concern that vaccines, in particular the triple shot MMR, will cause their child to develop an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The controversy surrounding this is well known but it is suffice to say that all the evidence and scientific research shows that vaccines can not and do not lead to ASDs. Any correlation that can be drawn between the two is simply that and can not be used as a basis for causation. The fact of the matter is that so far the only proven cause for autism is genetics and any environmental factors are either still under investigation or have been thoroughly disproved. To say otherwise at this point is unscientific conjecture and it would be reckless to base your child’s health decisions on such things.

The usual retort people have for the decision not to vaccinate is that it’s their decision and they should have the choice to make it. At this point the crazed libertarian in me starts shrieking out in support of them and I’d agree with him, right up until I get to the point of where their decisions start to impact others. Whilst the decision not to vaccinate your child is not only a bad decision for them it’s also a bad thing for society at large. Herd immunity requires a certain number of people to be immune to a disease before the non-immune can benefit from their protection. The anti-vaccination movement has had a big enough impact that for certain diseases we’re actually below that critical threshold and those who can’t be made immune, like those who are too young, end up paying the price.

Thankfully I live in Australia a place where the government has finally decided to hit people who refuse to vaccinate their children where it hurts, in their wallet:

Parents who do not have their children fully immunised will be stripped of family tax benefits under a scheme announced by the Federal Government.

The Government says 11 per cent of five-year-olds are not immunised and has announced a shake-up of the system which will take effect from July 1 next year.

Under the changes, families who refuse vaccinations face losing up to $2,100 per child in benefits.

That number of unvaccinated children is rather scary as the herd immunity level for pertussis (whooping cough) and measles is above that vaccination rate. Now this change won’t convince everyone, there are some that to refuse to vaccinate on principle, but hopefully it will drive the numbers up high enough that it won’t matter any more. As it stands now we’re in danger of seeing a resurgence of these diseases that, to put it simply, we shouldn’t have to.

This isn’t one of those ethical grey areas where you can justify your decision based on whatever you believe in, the fact is that if you’re child isn’t vaccinated they are not only at risk themselves but they also put others at risk. The only time I’d support someone not vaccinating their children is if they kept them away from all other children which I think everyone will agree would be far more damaging to them than a shot in the arm. So if the Australian government isn’t going to entertain the anti-vaccination movement neither should you and if you still feel the need to go against the grain because of some whacky view you saw on the Internet then I’m glad you’re getting slugged for it. Maybe then you’ll think twice about the callous decision you’re making.

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  1. There is no proof that vaccination is harmless, and in the long run it may even be found that it harms the species as a whole by not promulgating, through healthy lifestyle, a strong immune system. Instead we are being geared to rely primarily upon quick fixes at the medical centre. Strong immune systems are by a VERY long way the most effective line of defence against disease, and there is no proof to say that vaccination does not interfere with the development of a healthy immune system.

    Poor parents will have no choice, so this is effectively compulsory, as I’m sure you are aware. This is just one of the many little steps toward a fascist era that Australia will surely see ramping up in no time at all: first they stick needles in kids and when older bullets.

    Your argument that it puts other kids at risk is full of holes. Epidemics in any group of organisms occur when the group is already weakened. What is really happening is that the government see and predict an overall decline in general well-being in the populace due to increasingly pessimistic scenarios – that one doesn’t need to look sideways to notice. They are protecting the children of their upper hierarchical class by enforcing immunisation of all and sundry; but very especially the poor, who, as history predicts, are the first to fall and be carriers of disease.

  2. Bernard, do you have any idea how vaccinations actually work? I’m being serious here as the first paragraph you’ve written makes it sound like you think vaccines do nothing for the immune system when in fact vaccines do strengthen the immune system. The basic premise is that a vaccine prepares your immune system for an infection so if you do get infected it already has the required antibodies in order to fight it off. Vaccines make for a strong, healthy immune system just as you advocate.

    They still have the choice just that the government will no longer support them in that choice. If you believe Australia is on the fast track to a fascist state then you’d be best served to leave the country before it does so. It’s still a free country and there’s a whole bunch of places you could emigrate to without too much hassle.

    Vaccines prevent epidemics of the diseases they immunize against, that’s a fact. The problem we have with people not immunizing is that it puts others at risk (I.E. those who are too young to be immunized yet) because we no longer have herd immunity. There’s been dozens of cases of infant mortality due to preventable diseases because other parents refused to vaccinate.

    Your last couple sentences seem to devolve into some form of conspiracy theory that this is all a plot to protect the higher classes (which would lead me to believe that you think vaccines work). Indeed the poor are probably the ones who benefit the most from vaccines as they’re at a much higher risk of catching such diseases, so why wouldn’t we encourage them to get them?

  3. @David Klemke
    There has been no double blind studies to see if these drugs work.
    There has been no studies to determine the safety of these drugs.
    This is a requirement for all other drugs before they are released to the public. Why should vaccines be any different? If you say it would be unethical to subject child volunteers to these tests, why would it be OK to use the general public for testing?
    Immunity gained by contracting many of these diseases is life long. The same cannot be said for the immunity gained from a vaccination. If you look at the incidence of diseases and compare them to the gains in sanitation, you will see a drop before the vaccine was introduced.
    Our first line of defence is our skin, GIT and mucous membranes. It is from here that the immune system begins to be activated. If, as you say, the immune system is enhanced by the deliverance of foreign particles directly into the blood stream, why do we have so many more sick children? [Children of Destiny by Rodney Liddell]
    Then again lets look at the polio vaccine which has been acknowledged by the inventor (Salk) to have been the cause of the polio outbreak after its introduction. [http://www.vaclib.org/basic/polio.htm]
    Over the centuries the great minds of the time had their science on their side to justify there beliefs. e.g lead pipes in Rome and thalidomide mid last century. We all know what happened here.

  4. @Garry
    This took me about 2 seconds to Google: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673686910445 There’s been countless studies down on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, what has led you to believe otherwise? Hell here’s a great article on the challenges companies face in getting a vaccine approved (hint: it’s not developing the vaccine, it’s the rigurous process they have to go through in order to get it approved): http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v11/n4s/full/nm1218.html

    Let me make sure I’m reading you right here Garry, because I hope I’m not, you’re advocating infecting people with these diseases in order for them to gain immunity to it? Have you seen the kinds of complications that can arise from things like polio, measles and mumps? Considering the vaccinations are by and large complication free I can’t fathom why you would recommend putting people through potentially life threatening diseases just because you think vaccines may cause problems (which they’ve been proven not to).

    Vaccines only protect against the diseases they’re targeted at, they’re not some kind of magical cure all for any ailment you might have. The increased incident rates of ASDs we’re seeing in the general population (which I assume is what you mean by “sick children”, due to your link that site) is because we’ve become better at diagnosing it. Japan has long since switched away from the type of vaccination that was wrongly believed to cause autism in the past, yet the diagnosis rate continues to rise.

    I’m not sure where you’re sourcing that information (that site references other Geocities sites and a self published book with no scientific studies) but I couldn’t find any information to support that claim, in fact I found the opposite:

    The Salk vaccine had been 60 – 70% effective against PV1 (poliovirus type 1), over 90% effective against PV2 and PV3, and 94% effective against the development of bulbar polio.[26] Soon after Salk’s vaccine was licensed in 1955 children’s vaccination campaigns were launched. In the U.S, following a mass immunization campaign promoted by the March of Dimes, the annual number of polio cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,600 by 1957.[27] By 1961 only 161 cases were recorded in the United States.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine

    Rome was millennia ago and Thalidomide was decades ago. Our scientific rigour has improved so much since then that cases like that are becoming increasingly rare. Additionally both examples have nothing to do with vaccines and so unless you’re willing to throw out all of our scientific achievement (including this fancy Internet thing you’re using to communicate with me) then I have no idea why you’re mentioning it.

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