I would like to answer a query I come across often when discussing vaccination on public forums – why it is that parents who vaccinate their kids are concerned when other parents make the choice not to vaccinate theirs. Sometimes it appears as this image meme:
It was posed this morning by Pauline Hanson on Sunrise (link to video), so I figured I’d write to her and explain. I have left this message on her Facebook page, and will leave it here also in case anybody else is interested in an answer.
This morning on Sunrise, you asked “If the other kids have had their vaccinations, what’s the problem here?”
I’d like to take the opportunity to explain some of the reasons that parents who do vaccinate their kids are concerned about other parents choosing not to vaccinate.
First of all, some kids are too young to be vaccinated. Fortunately we’re able to offer babies some protection from whooping cough with maternal third trimester booster shots for pregnant mums, but until a baby has had their third pertussis vaccine at six months old, their vulnerability to catching whooping cough is significant. Here is a link to the Australian Immunisation Schedule, where you can look up the ages at which children can be protected from various diseases.
Secondly, some children cannot be immunised for medical reasons – think kids with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. We can help protect these kids from further illness by keeping vaccine preventable diseases out of our communities by immunising those that we can.
Third, unfortunately no vaccine is one hundred percent effective. This is why we need to have as many people as possible vaccinated – the more people are immune to a disease, the less chance that disease will have to progress through a community.
And fourth, and I am speaking for myself here though am sure many parents who do vaccinate their kids will agree with me, I don’t want to see any kid catching whooping cough, measles, or chicken pox, regardless of their parents’ beliefs about medicine. I don’t want the parents who’ve placed trust in anti-vaccination campaigners to go through the pain of having a critically ill child, a child who lives with a permanent disability due to a preventable disease, or a child who has died.
Thanks for your time, Pauline – I hope that I’ve answered your question. Please let me know if I can clarify any of this further.
A Facebook commenter has rightly pointed out that adults with compromised immune systems are also placed at risk by low vaccination rates, and that shingles is an incredibly unpleasant and painful experience for older people to go through.