Anti-Vaccination Advocates on the Front Line of Public Health

I have a confession to make, people. Sometimes I read the comments. And sometimes I even join in.

Earlier today, ABC News posted a news article on their Facebook page regarding Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton’s meeting with his state counterparts to discuss a possible decision to withhold Family Tax Benefit payments from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, for non-medical reasons. It’s a complicated issue and one that Dr Julie Leask has addressed in the news article itself.

ABC News’ Facebook moderator invited comments from Facebook users on the topic, prompting much discussion, both advocating and opposing vaccination itself, and agreeing with or criticising the proposal to withhold benefits from families who choose not to vaccinate their children. Having a little free time on my hands, I had a look over the comments and made a few myself; predominantly providing rebuttals to anti-vaccination rhetoric and suggesting that people discuss any concerns that they may have about immunisation with a qualified health professional.

Here’s a fairly typical example of the sort of comment that those who oppose vaccination make on such threads:

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Usually I’ll respond to this sort of statement with an explanation of herd immunity, that unimmunised children increase the risk of vaccine preventable diseases entering our community, the importance of protecting children for whom vaccines are medically contraindicated (be it due to medically diagnosed allergy, an immunocompromised state due to cancer therapy or organ transplant, or being too young to yet be immunised), that vaccines aren’t one hundred percent effective (often noting that seatbelts aren’t either, but it’s sensible to take the high level of protection that we can get over none at all).

We’ve got a couple more fallacies here. “Straight up poisons” sounds fairly terrifying, but doesn’t take into account the rigorous testing vaccines go through, nor the doses at which vaccine ingredients are administered. Break down our foodstuffs and you’ll find scary sounding chemicals in many fruits and vegetables in minute amounts; some of which also occur naturally in our own systems.

To suggest that anybody is proposing that parents will be “forced” to immunise children is also disingenuous. The current proposal is to withhold a payment as an incentive, the option to refuse to vaccinate would still be available.

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Earlier, I mentioned that I often suggest to people that if they have concerns about immunisation, they should discuss them with a qualified health professional. Here, Deb has informed us that she is indeed speaking as a health professional.

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In fact, she is a nurse. The sort of person we should reasonably be able to trust for sound advice and information on vaccines. A practitioner of evidence based medicine.

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Here are some odd generalisations regarding lifestyle choices! Thankfully, many parents who ensure that their kids get outside and play and give them… food stuff that is actually food stuff… also choose to vaccinate.

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Which epidemics? Were vaccinations around during these epidemics also?

Sanitation is a marvel for public health, but it is not responsible for the significant lowering of vaccine preventable diseases. More information on this frequently repeated myth from WHO.

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A healthcare practitioner who buys into the “Big Pharma” business?

It troubles me. Out of curiosity, and using publicly available data, I found Deb’s LinkedIn profile. Her name (she uses a pseudonym on Facebook, but her Facebook URL contained her surname), photo and job description matched, so I am quite confident that I’ve identified her correctly. She works as a clinical nurse in what she describes as a “large, busy, Metro ED Department”.

Her refusal to have the influenza vaccine leaves her prone to contracting it… and working in an emergency department, she is likely to have a high risk of exposure to the virus. If she is at work while contagious, there’s potential for her to pass it on to some very ill and vulnerable patients under her care.

What is also deeply disturbing to me though, is that somebody on the front line of public health – in a position of authority on healthcare – would hold views that so strongly reject many tenets of evidence based medicine. We should be able to trust clinical nurses to know better.

 

 

19:20 – 12/04/2014 Edited to add: Two more of Deb’s posts on the ABC News thread, presented without comment.

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Although the discussion on ABC News’ Facebook page is a public one and Deb uses a pseudonym, I have chosen to pixelate her photograph and surname for this post, as I am noting her as an example of a health professional who espouses anti-vaccination views, rather than an individual to be exposed.

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10 comments

    1. Held to account and terminated for cause. The primary cause being the reason for a number of RN dismissals, refusing to vaccinate and hence, posing an excessive risk to seriously ill patients.

      My oldest daughter is an RN, she’s serving quite well and with distinction. She related her incomprehension that one of her classmates in college, in the same RN class as she, is anti-vaccination.
      That tells me one thing, the college and apparently, quite a few other colleges, have failed to teach both critical thinking *and* science very well.
      For, anyone who can think critically *and* knows the science behind medicine should most certainly comprehend the science supporting, phenomenally strongly, behind vaccines, their efficacy and safety.
      Indeed, as a case in point, last year, my eldest daughter had her influenza immunization. A couple of months after, she did contract influenza.
      A few interesting things happened. One employer wanted her to remain at work, despite being contagious. That home for the elderly and rehabilitation was not selected when my father became dangerous due to his dementia.
      The other was our joking about lousy luck, complete with jokes about not playing the lottery.
      She got her influenza immunization this year, to much greater success.
      But, we discussed and she agreed on all points, though our influenza vaccine is less effective than the majority of other vaccines, with variability in efficacy each year, it beats not attempting any protection at all.
      I then reinforced the matter by reminding her that one disease is not extinct in the wild. After it was certain it was extinct, our most hazardous of vaccines was withdrawn from common use and no is used only by certain medical professionals and workers in hazardous fields (such as responding to novel infectious disease outbreaks) and the military, where smallpox could be used as a weapon of biological warfare.
      The point being, once the risk of a disease that had a horrifying morbidity and mortality rate was exterminated, a vaccine that had an insanely higher risk level than any modern vaccines was removed from common usage.
      Insanely being well under 1% morbidity or mortality.

      But then, people fought against installing seat belts in motor vehicles.
      Personally, I intensely dislike operating a motor vehicle without one. But then, I’ve personally peeled people’s faces from dashboards and windshields, as well as collected body parts after ejection after an IED explosion. Those who remained in the vehicle, courtesy of their seat belts were intact, unless shrapnel or flame caused harm.

  1. I’m also an RN working in a busy metro ED, and have been registered for more than 25 years. There is no way in Hell that I would NOT immunise my child. This Deb Henry needs to be struck off the register in my opinion.

  2. I am a nurse educator working in dialysis with immuno compromised patients and they need their vaccines as much as me….hang your head in same Deb Henry!!

  3. I am an air traffic controller at a busy international airport. Having been in the industry for 25 years, I long ago worked out not to trust radar, radio or other evil tools pushed by Big Electron. Anyway, if you put on your seat belt when the captain tells you to, what is there to worry about? With age comes wisdom.

    1. So sensible. I completely agree! Plus all that radiation! Hang on.. my mobile is ringing. I’ll have to go.

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