Vaccinations: Personal Choice, Community Service

18. April 2016 Health 0
Vaccinations: Personal Choice, Community Service

I read an article the other week about a mum on the Gold Coast, here in Australia, that had undergone a transformation from Anti-Vaxer to a believer in the necessity of vaccinations after her baby had been hospitalised for whooping cough. In the article she was quoted as saying that because she kept fit and ate organic food throughout her pregnancy, she didn’t need to be vaccinated before the birth of her baby.

Anti-Vaccination Pockets

However it was an outbreak closer to home, in Brunswick, Melbourne, that rang alarm bells in my head. I had known about the Anti-Vax movement around the world, and in Australia. Their belief that there was more harm than good in vaccinations confuses me because here are grown adults, members of our community, taking a stance that goes against all known science. I believe that some are trying to do the best thing for their families, that in their desire to protect their loved ones, they have been won over by others. But I also believe that there is a streak of arrogance, with a twist of selfishness.

But back to the case in Brunswick, Melbourne. This particular case arose in December 2015. Out of approximately 320 students at a suburban primary school, over a quarter had become infected with with Chickenpox. Here in Victoria, Students do not have to be immunised to attend government schools, but parents must inform the school of the child’s immunisation status. This particular school had openly welcomed students who were not vaccinated. In a newsletter released by the school, the Principle had written:

“Prospective students will not be prevented from enrolling in primary school if they have not been immunised,” he said.“We expect all community members to act respectfully and with tolerance when interacting with other parents and carers who may have a differing opinion to their own.“This includes an opposing understanding about child immunisation.

“I ask all community members to interact respectfully at all times and with a sense of tolerance and acceptance of diversity.”

A Community At Risk

While I am all for tolerance and acceptance of diversity, the fact it is possible for a large quantity of parents within a school community to not vaccinate their children; and for the school not to advise other parents of the scale of non-vaccinations within the school community, is scary. It had never really bothered me before. We were always going to vaccinate our children, and I was always of the mind-set that we were vaccinated anyway, so why should it bother me that someone else had chosen not to vaccinate their children.

But now, the idea that this concept has spread so far and taken hold over so many, that pockets of un-immunised families are growing scare the hell out of me. Firstly this is because in these cases there is greater opportunity for diseases to spread. For students, and teachers, to catch a disease a take it outside of the school community and infect others within our communities who are more vulnerable. Spreading the disease to the elderly lady in the supermarket, to the immune compromised parent picking up their child from school, or to the newborn baby at home. 

Closer To Home

Before our youngest was born 12 weeks ago, we had decided that until she had received all her early vaccinations we would need to keep her away from strangers, and any family members who were not up to date with their vaccinations. We raised our concerns with our immediate family, advising that due to the rise in reported outbreaks we would be extra careful with visitors; that we would not be risking our babies health and well being by being around anyone that did not have up to date vaccinations.

Too many times new parents are concerned about upsetting or offending family or friends by asking them about their vaccination status, or not letting them hold the baby. But in this day and age, with the prevalence of Anti-Vaxers within the community, new parents cannot afford to be dismissive about the threat. Vaccinations are not solely about protecting your children (or yourself if you’re getting a late start with your vaccinations), it is also about protecting the more vulnerable within our community.

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