Not vaccinating a hugely risky health approach

16:00, Jan 25 2013
Whooping cough
BOOSTER'S BEST: Family members who come into contact with newborns are encouraged to get booster vaccinations.

With international air travel involved in visiting our young grandchildren, we've been weighing up the need to have our whooping cough vaccinations updated.

Until recently, I'd thought that whooping cough had disappeared; and it might well have, a doctor friend tells me, if it wasn't for those parents who choose not to have their children immunised.

I'd been mulling over that comment for a couple of weeks before reading about the experience of a father who, in his words, "let the hippy win" and not the science when they deliberately chose not to immunise their son.

The 7-year-old picked up tetanus, something that's always with us in the environment.

The father's story of the excruciating pain that required his son to be put into an induced coma and the gut-wrenching agony of watching his son's fight to live, knowing that he and his wife had created the situation, has woken them to the cruelty of their decision. That he might not have lived no doubt gives them nightmares.

There are two sorts of ignorance around this. The genuine ignorance of those who don't appreciate the value of vaccinations and the implications of non-immunisation against a range of childhood and other diseases that, for centuries, cut swathes through families.


The world's burial grounds bear testimony to the millions of children who died.

Then there are those taken in by the educated ignoramuses who preach a perverse course of action based mostly, if you dig deep enough, on conspiracy theories and not mainstream, peer-reviewed science and real statistics.

"Ignoramus" might seem a strong word to use but I can think of other, much stronger words for those parents who would put their children at such risk.

Their ilk are the fundamentalists in Pakistan who rail against vaccination as a western, American plot to sterilise Muslim girls, and those who believe, with no sound evidence, that vaccines are the cause of autism and other conditions.

They provide no information on the terrible consequences of not immunising.

Many New Zealand parents who choose not to vaccinate are lucky that their kids either don't contract one of these diseases or make it through measles, for example, without suffering any of the dreadful complications that can result.

But that's a Russian roulette approach.

We need to be clear here. No New Zealand child has died from a vaccination.

No matter how convincing some of the arguments of the anti-vaccination groups might seem on the surface, no New Zealand child has died from a vaccination.

But New Zealand children have died from not being vaccinated or have suffered complications they've had to cope with for the rest of their lives. Consequences so easily avoided.

© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.

The Timaru Herald