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“Why you shouldn’t boycott your child’s jab”
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“Why you shouldn’t boycott your child’s jab”

Jake ElsonUniversal vaccination is essential for public health, writes Jake Elson, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Bunbury in Australia, as he dissects the arguments of those opposed to immunisation.

Safety and protection from serious illness and disease seems to be a given in the Western world these days.

It therefore evokes concern to read that long-dormant illnesses such as whooping cough are making a comeback. Why? Because some parents are refusing to vaccinate their children.

This group of parents, or anti-vaxxers, is a minority movement that believes vaccination puts the child at greater risk than if he or she were not vaccinated. They are, however, putting not only their child at risk, but the community as a whole.

There is something in medical terms known as the ‘herd immunity threshold’. In short, if X percentage or above is immunised, then the population will be protected. Should that percentage fall below X, then the population is at greater threat [11].  To give an example, for various diseases X= 85-90 per cent, according to Jillian Skinner, a New South Wales Member of Parliament [1]. It therefore beggars belief that such a fringe movement can put the entirety of society at risk.

So what is their rationale? It’s a variety of reasons.

One of the biggest claims from anti-vaxxers  is the danger of illness resulting from ingredients used in vaccinations. It is common knowledge that in certain vaccinations, small strains of the targeted disease are included in the shot given to immunise patients. However, anyone with a basic understanding of how human biology works will tell you – that is how it is meant to work. Exposing the immune system to doses of said virus in small and safe doses adapts the body to deal with future illness. It is very much like building up muscles so you don’t strain those muscles lifting heavy objects!

Then there is the autism argument. According to a study conducted in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, there was reportedly a correlation between autism and the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR)vaccine. However, other researchers consistently failed to prove the link [3]. In 2004, an article by Brian Deer of the Sunday Times brought forth evidence that Dr. Wakefield was embroiled in a conflict of interest over the study [2]. In 2010, the General Medical Council of Great Britain found him guilty, and Wakefield was subsequently struck from the medical register. The journal which published the original report, the Lancet, would not long after publish a retraction. Dr. Fiona Godlee, writing for the British Medical Journal in 2012, concluded that Wakefield’s findings were ‘an elaborate fraud.’ [4]

Despite these new findings, the old adage ‘tell a lie long enough and people will believe it’ has proven true. Celebrity and prominent anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy has blamed MMR vaccination for causing her son’s autism, as have several other high profile figures. However, their views remain dubious, particularly given that indications of autism generally emerge in children after the age for MMR vaccination. The claim that the surge in autism diagnoses in recent years correlates to MMR vaccination is also dubious, as autism is a comparatively recent diagnosis which had not had any focus until the last twenty years.

Many from neo-liberal beliefs have also joined in the anti-vaxxer crusade. Rachel Hills, writing for American magazine New Republic, claims neo-liberalism, or a dislike of government interfering with daily life, spurs on many anti-vaxxers [5]. Chris Christie, in the running for the Republican nomination for the US Presidency, has given indirect support to anti-vaxxers by saying that vaccinations should be voluntary, even once in 2009 giving his support to anti-vaxxers [6].

With such arguments being trumpeted, it is no surprise that vaccination rates are dropping. In Fremantle, Western Australia, the vaccination rate is 90 per cent [7]. In parts of Northern New South Wales, namely Nimbin, Mullumbimby and Byron Bay, the rate is reportedly between 60 to 70 per cent [1][7]. With such rates lower than needed to maintain herd immunity, there has emerged community outrage. Several state governments have fed into this anger, introducing so-called ‘No Jab, No Play’ laws, forbidding enrolment of children in day care centres if their vaccinations are not up to date. The federal government has also introduced ‘No Jab, No Pay’ laws, meaning that welfare payments could also be stopped as a result [9]. In Singapore, certain vaccinations are mandatory by law. [10]

It seems absolutely insane that, in this day and age with the technological and scientific knowledge available to us, there remains a group of neo-luddites more than willing to put society at risk because of their views. Some argue that it is tantamount to child abuse, as the child is not at a stage to think for itself and the parent must take full responsibility. If the child becomes ill of a disease that medicine can prevent because of their beliefs, then the parent is to blame. Therefore, if both our children and society as a whole wish to thrive safely, it is imperative for a child’s vaccinations to be up to date.

https://twitter.com/JakeElson1

photo credit: Semana de Vacunación en las Americas 2014 – Paraguay via photopin (license)

[1]http://www.northernstar.com.au/news/no-vaccination-no-child-care/1875347/

[2]http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/article1879347.ece

[3]http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347

[4]http://www.bmj.com/press-releases/2012/06/26/bmj-declares-mmr-study-%E2%80%9C-elaborate-fraud%E2%80%9D-autism-claims-likened-%E2%80%9Cpiltdown-

[5]https://newrepublic.com/article/120695/study-anti-vaccination-supporters-practice-neoliberal-mothering

[6]http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/02/christie-i-stand-with-autism-fearing-anti-vaxx-parents.html

[7] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-11/children-across-australia-not-fully-imunised/4622666

[8] http://www.mamamia.com.au/vaccination-queensland/

[9]http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/BudgetReview201516/Vaccination

[10] http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/630

[11] http://www.vaccines.gov/basics/protection/

 

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About me:

I am a history buff, but also am into soccer. I referee soccer, and would like to go FIFA one day.  I’m currently studying politics and international relations at Edith Cowan University. My aim is to become a police officer in Western Australia, and I would like to be Prime Minister one day.

I am a Conservative and a Monarchist, and believe in the role of the Commonwealth as a tool for good.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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