The number of “vaccine objectors” has risen dramatically since 1999, and top Australian immunization specialists are concerned. Twelve Australian specialists are warning parents that “they are risking deadly consequences” if they choose not to fully vaccinate their children.
Statistics now show that one in 12 Australian babies is not fully immunized. This drop, researchers believe, may lead to outbreaks of diseases thought to be nearly extinct, such as diphtheria, whooping cough, and measles. The number of conscientious objectors has risen six-fold since 1999.
Doctors say that this rising number of parents choosing not to get their children vaccinated is putting the whole community at risk.
The general aim of public health officials since the birth of vaccinations has been to establish what is known as “herd immunity.” Herd immunity occurs when the majority of the population is vaccinated, thereby drastically limiting the spreading of certain diseases. For years, pertussis (also known as whooping cough) has been all but extinct. However, as of 2009, the protection of herd immunity was compromised in some areas, leading to outbreaks of the disease.
This is in part to parental refusal of vaccination, since diseases such as whooping cough are vaccine-preventable.
While many parents argue that their decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate their children is personal, the theory of herd immunity states otherwise. When one child contracts whooping cough, for example, the infect on average 12 to 17 other individuals. While those who are vaccinated will not contract the disease, unborn babies and infants are too small to be vaccinated and are therefore susceptible. There are also those who are immune to immunizations, and therefore are only protected from infectious diseases by herd immunity.
If 92 percent of the population is vaccinated against whooping cough the disease remains non-existent. Outbreaks of the disease in recent years indicate that the herd immunity threshold has been broken.
In response to the decline in immunizations, the Australian Academy of Science is working with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) to publish and distribute a booklet explaining the importance of vaccinations.
The booklet is purposed to combat the “misinformation” that has driven vaccination rates so low. The AMA says that immunizations remain the most effective protection against disease. 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. It is of concern that there are these pockets of conscientious objection to vaccination that are growing,” she added.
“I don’t think people understand that they’re not just choosing for their own family, they’re putting at risk the wider community.”
Scientists say that the internet and social media, with its wealth of information and varying opinions, is not helping their cause.
“I think it was 1998 when a paper was published in the British highly-reputably medical journal The Lancet suggesting that there was a link between autism and being given the MMR measles-containing vaccine,” Emeritus Professor Tony Basten, of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, noted.
“The suggestion was that the virus got into the intestine and stopped the absorption of nutrients that are needed for normal brain development. Extensive studies have been done comparing the autism rate in vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. There is no difference. And that paper is now accepted as fraudulent and it has been withdrawn by the publishers.”
Do you vaccinated your children? Why or why not?