The science is in. Actually, the science was in decades ago but a hysterical minority hijacked it and has held the issue to ransom ever since.
Not for very much longer.
After patiently waiting for good sense to prevail on the matter of vaccinating children (sadly, to no avail), doctors and scientists are fighting back: today they launch a campaign targeting parents who refuse to immunise their children.
The science is in: Doctors launch a campaign urging parents to vaccinate their children.
It’s frightening that the number of these parents has, according to ABC news, increased six-fold in recent time. It’s frightening for public health, and it’s frightening for public intelligence.
Because the facts are incontrovertible: immunisation prevents disease. Vaccinations all but wiped out infectious disease that once killed and disabled small children, but a growing band of misinformed “anti-vaxers” have put our public health at risk.
Not just the health of their own children, but yours and mine too.
“It is of concern,” says Australian Academy of Science president Suzanne Cory, “That there are these pockets of conscientious objection to vaccination that are growing and I don’t think people understand that they’re not just choosing for their own family, they’re putting at risk the wider community.”
Do you remember the tragic case of Dana McCaffery, the four week-old Lennox Head baby who died from whooping cough in 2010? Too young to be immunized, she caught the deadly bacteria in Northern NSW, an area infamous for its low immunisation rates.
Today the Australian Academy of Science, supported by the Australian Medical Association, presents the science in easy, accessible language in a booklet that drives home the importance of immunising children.
Written by Professor Ian Frazer, the booklet brings together Australia’s top immunologists who were “concerned about confusion created by contradictory information about immunization.”
Academy president Suzanne Cory says: “Vaccination is incredibly important for our society to keep us free of infectious diseases.
“You just have to think back to the early days of Australia and look in the cemeteries and see how many young children died of infectious diseases before we had these wonderful vaccines and before we had antibiotics.”
And that may be part of the problem – the vaccination program could be a victim of its own success: people don’t see the death and disease and perhaps become complacent about taking part in the coordinated effort to fight it.
There is also the issue of misguided fear and confusion around side-effects.
As prominent immunologist Sir Gustav Nossal (pictured right, image via abc.net.au) writes at The Punch today, “It’s true that side effects do exist – but they are generally trivial. It is also true that serious side effects happen but they are vanishingly rare – occurring in only about one in a million vaccinations.
“Despite claims to the contrary, the risk-benefit equation is overwhelmingly in favour of vaccination.”
Vaccines are without a doubt, he says, “history’s most cost-effective public health tool.”
Some of the fear-mongering about vaccinations can be traced back to a medical paper – since discovered to be fraudulent – that made news around the world in 1998 when a British medical researcher made claims that vaccines were linked to the incidence of autism in the community.
These “findings” took moments to hit the headlines and then took years to be discredited. In the interim the fools rushed in and perpetuated the myths, and so much damage has been done to public perception about vaccinations.
In a recent edition of Media Watch, host Jonathan Holmes took his fine scalpel to media coverage of the issue, and suggested that in an effort to be balanced the media had, over the years, given commensurate airtime to the anti-vaxers. Just to get both sides of the story.
But overwhelming scientific evidence does not have equal weight with unfounded scaremongering.
You may note that this whole article has been written without mentioning Australia’s foremost anti-vaxer, who has been given far too much media coverage in this country over the years.
Hopefully now it’s sinking in: her untenable position doesn’t doesn’t deserve the oxygen.
To get the facts about immunisation from Australia’s top scientists in the field, you can go the Australian Academy of Science website here.
MORE ARTICLES BY LUCY CLARK
*Lucy (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on Twitter: @lucykateclark.